Tuesday evening, The Franklin Theatre wrapped up a day's worth of bloodshed, samurai swords and revenge.
The theater was finishing a day's worth of screenings of the Kill Bill movies, part one of The Bride's conquest at 2:30 p.m., part two at 7 p.m.
The Kill Bill films haven't played in the Nashville areas in years, much less most of Quentin Tarantino's film oeuvre sans Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood, which opened in 2019.
For any area film nerd, it's just not something you can afford to pass up if you can, a chance to see a Tarantino film in the format in which the brilliance of the filmmaking can take full root. The guy makes movies for theaters, full stop. Tuesday's showings really nailed that in.
Walking in to a mostly empty theater for the finale of Tarantino's two-part epic, only two patrons in front of me, one to the side who came with me and two behind me, it felt a little defeating.
In what was clearly the best-billed slate of movies playing in the Nashville area that day, only a handful of folks showed up. Combined the ease of catching the 2:30 if you could, having a nice downtown Franklin dinner in-between and hopping back over for the 7, it makes you wonder where everybody was.
Since reopening in 2011 following a community-wide push to keep it anchored in downtown, the Franklin Theatre has fought to find an identity for its film programming. While it has nestled itself into its identity of an intimate concert venue for artists you might not see at Bridgestone or The Ryman, the film programming has ebbed and flowed. As of late, the theater is operating twofold: as a second-run theater house for films that have played in the last six months you might've missed at AMC, and as a full-fledged rep house playing some of the more recognizable classics in the film canon.
The former is what it is, a way to lure folks out for dinner and a movie with a recognizable recent flick they might've missed. It's not a terrible strategy. Though, what the theater can offer as a reparatory house continues to be one of the more exciting things for movie fans who just want to see a favorite in the way it was meant to be seen.
The theater's "Tarantino Tuesdays" is one of its best ideas in years, programming some of the auteur's filmography on midweek dates and giving local film nerds the chance to either revisit or see for the first time some of the prolific director's standout films.
The Kill Bill double was a thrill, the theater's sound system punctuating Tarantino's pristine sound mix better than your local AMC's small theater, the film presented in widescreen but masked as well as it could be. The thrill of seeing the Crazy 88's fight or the climactic showdown between The Bride and Bill in a theater is unmatched.
The only thing you wonder is, can we get more, and will more people show up?
While the crown jewel of the middle Tennessee theater-going experience will always be The Belcourt, and the most technically advanced Franklin's Dolby Theater in Cool Springs, the Franklin Theatre can operate as a rep house for the people. While they may not program a Godard retrospective or open the latest Marvel film, they can, for instance, have Spielberg or Scorsese Saturdays, or program iconic horror movies like Halloween, Friday the 13th, Psycho and Scream around spooky season.
The theater already does a pretty good job of stocking the Christmas stuffings of holiday favorites, but the Tarantino Tuesdays are a stark reminder of the fact that no other theater in middle Tennessee has quite the devotion The Franklin Theatre does to playing the hits, those golden oldies that never get old.
Heck, the theater could take The Movie Gang's event-driven format and expand it to doing "not quite midnight" movie experiences on Fridays that plays cult classics with themed pre-show events to get people interested in soaking in all that after-hours screenings have become known for.
In 2017, I got the chance to see The Shawshank Redemption at that theater, the first time I'd have seen it on the big screen. It was special, a chance to really soak in my favorite film in a way that wouldn't normally be possible.
In recent years, I've seen movies like The Green Mile, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Hook at the theater, audience favorites that might not always pop up elsewhere in town. For such a robust theater scene as middle Tennessee, the Franklin Theatre holds a special spot as being willing to play some of cinema's most recognizable titles on the type of screen that made them what they are.
Movie Gang events are a lot of fun, and Tarantino Tuesdays need to give way to more day-of-the-week screening series involving some of our most notable directors working (Lucas Mondays? Coen Thursdays? Bigelow Wednesdays?)
The Franklin Theatre has films like Forrest Gump, An American in Paris, Back to the Future (with the Movie Gang) and, yes, Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood on tap for the month of July, the Gene Kelly film part of the theater's ongoing "Silver Matinee" series highlighting some of the Golden Age of Hollywood's biggest films.
The theater is doing its part, and can always do more, but it needs the community to come out, skip Netflix for a night, grab dinner at McCreary's or Gray's on Main and catch a classic. As frequenter of The Belcourt, I can tell you first hand what it's like to have a theater that consistently plays old movies and have that special feeling of taking it in with a full crowd.
For the handful of us at this week's Tarantino Tuesday, it'll be an experience we won't soon forget. The selfish part of me wants more folks to get to experience some of cinema's biggest hits so they'd see how special it is to take in the best of the medium in the best format possible.
To The Franklin Theatre, keep up the good work, and keep the hits coming. While the second-run screenings make sense, the golden oldies are what keep the theater a mainstay for local film fans. Just having a place where you can go watch the Kill Bill movies back-to-back is a joy. Please do more of that.
To Williamson County's film fans (or just those looking for a night out), consider what's going on with The Franklin Theatre's programming slate. You never know when Jaws might be swimming up, or if that galaxy far, far away might take you into hyperspeed. Maybe muscle cars will whiz by you in American Graffiti, or Kermit the Frog will stare down Doc Hopper in The Muppet Movie. Maybe Bogart will start a beautiful friendship in Casablanca, or a certain dinosaur amusement park will start with its infamous glitches.
It's nice to have a place to take in your favorite movies. The Franklin Theatre is doing just that monthly. You should come out and see one soon. I'll save you a seat.