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Alamo Drafthouse Cinema: SCROOGED Movie Party Review

Scrooged Movie Party Review

I've seen Scrooged at least thirty times. It's been a part of more Christmas Eve nights in my life than it hasn't been. But I've never seen this dark, comedic 1988 take on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol with more than a handful of people.
And since I was in kindergarten when it opened in theaters, it has long been in my view one of the best movies I've never seen on the big screen. Last night, I was able to change both of those facts and get my first taste of an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema interactive movie party.

Scrooged has never gotten the respect it deserves. In the '80s pantheon of holiday comedies, it's a far cry from A Christmas Story and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation in terms of popularity/familiarity. Whereas those two have long been fixtures of holiday merchandise sections, Scrooged's biggest retail adventure was when Paramount Home Entertainment announced a "Yule Love It Edition" DVD in 2006 and cancelled it before its release. Rumor has it that Bill Murray himself, supposedly never been crazy about the film (although he's repeatedly reteamed with lone surviving screenwriter Mitch Glazer), had the DVD shelved. That's pretty much the worst Bill Murray legend out there and one we can only hope is untrue. But it's a fact that the edition with all its promised bells and whistles has never come to fruition and thirteen Christmases later, Scrooged has still never been accompanied by more than its original theatrical trailer in any home video format.

Over the past few years, I've been able to catch Home Alone and The Muppet Christmas Carol on the big screen in seasonal reissue at local theaters and classics like White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life can easily be found in many metropolises this time of year. But Scrooged was more of a challenge. It was not even screened as part of the 2004 "What About Bill Murray?" Film Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where I did catch the kindred Groundhog Day and the legendarily elusive Nothing Lasts Forever.

A look at the props and special menu from Alamo Drafthouse Cinema's December 2019 "Scrooged" Movie Party.

I would have jumped at the chance to see Scrooged in any theater, but I was doubly excited for it to get the full Alamo Drafthouse Movie Party treatment. Though it has Twin Cities in its name, the closest Alamo Drafthouse to me is actually in the suburb of Woodbury, Minnesota, which meant a commute of nearly one full hour during rush hour, unavoidable on most weeknights. That's the downside. The upside is that Alamo Drafthouse clearly holds a love for movies and movie exhibition that you just don't pick up from other theaters. The place won me over on my first visit, to this year's otherwise forgettable Annabelle movie, with its pre-movie announcement of its no-talking, no-cell phone policy, which it used a breathtakingly hilarious clip of a profanity-spewing giant child from 1989's Food of the Gods II to explain. I'm disappointed none of the movies I've seen there since then has carried the R rating needed to justify that clip (although it is on YouTube without context).

Drafthouse differs from other theaters in its decor -- there was a big Toy Story 4 mural on my first visit there -- and in its accommodations. There's a restaurant and bar, which many theaters nowadays offer. But there's also the option to have food and drinks delivered directly to your seat with a simple paper and pencil ordering system. That can be distracting; no matter how adept the staff is at scurrying around in the dark and ducking in front of the screen, I'm 6'5" and I always feel compelled to draw in my long legs that hang off every reclining movie theater seat known to mankind. But the food is generally pretty good and the drinks are even better. They're both better when they're themed to a movie, as they were at Scrooged.

Actually, the two specials offered at this party -- a Frozen Hot Chocolate Shake and a Candy Cane Shake -- were pretty generic holiday drinks. No shortage of drinks are consumed in Scrooged, from the dead Lew Hayward going to town on a bottle of Bacardi to Frank Cross' signature drink of Stoli Vodka with a splash of Tab. Alamo's movie parties do usually include alcoholic beverage offerings; a menu leftover from the previous night's Love Actually
The Frozen Hot Chocolate Shake arrived while filmed carolers provided pre-show entertainment.
party had two such drinks. I opted for the Frozen Hot Chocolate shake, made of chilled hot chocolate, mini marshmallows (the best part!), vanilla ice cream, and malt powder. It did not disappoint, although for $8, it better not (what would Vincent Vega think of today's milkshake prices?!).

The party side of things was covered by several jovial employees dressed in colorful holiday sweaters. You'll want to get to these early, not just to peruse the large menu but also to enjoy the pre-movie entertainment running on the screen. We're not talking about local business ads and movie trivia, but a variety of Christmas-themed videos from Everything Is Terrible, which included everything from feline Christmas carols to glimpses of the "Saved by the Bell" Christmas two-parter and Michael Keaton inexplicably singing in Jack Frost. At the designated showtime, one of the sweatered employees appeared at the front of the theater with a spotlight to run us through the props supplied for this party and Alamo's party zone rules, which are less strict than their regular policy but still leave little room for talking and none for cell phone usage. Next, there was a brief "Stories of Christmas Past" contest in which three volunteers -- who didn't know what they were volunteering for -- shared stories of their worst Christmas. It was about as cringeworthy as you might expect of such a spontaneous exercise, but all three received gift cards for their courage and the one with the "best" sob story landed a VHS copy of Scrooged too.

After a normal selection of new movie trailers (a novelty to me, since I rarely get those at my usual critics' screenings), the movie began. For this experience, we were given a towel, a confetti popper, and a small tub of bubbles. We set off the confetti poppers when the aforementioned Lew Hayward (John Forsythe, the original Charlie of "Charlie's Angels") makes a big entrance in Frank's office. We blew bubbles (or tried to) to coincide with the first appearance of the Ghost of Christmas Present (Carol Kane), a moment full of bubbles. The towel, meanwhile, was to be waved any time a towel is mentioned as Frank's go-to Christmas gift, which was quite often.
This understated white towel -- featuring Frank's broadcast hat over the word "TOWEL" -- was the biggest keepsake of the night.

It was great to at last experience my all-time favorite Christmas movie with a crowd. I just wish the crowd had been bigger than the dozen or two gathered for this showing. Most of my regular weeknight advance screenings are packed full and the few midnight showings of older movies I've attended have had an excitement and vitality I was hoping for here. But I guess you don't get that same vibe at 6:30 on a Thursday night. There were only 78 seats in the theater -- which I'm not complaining about (again, 6'5") -- so even a packed house isn't going to be all that packed.

Scrooged is but one of several holiday flicks getting the party treatment at Alamo this month. Others include the aforementioned Love Actually, A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, It's a Wonderful Life, Illumination's The Grinch, '80s classic Gremlins, Shane Black's fun mystery Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and, for a full week, Elf with a "snowball" fight and scratch n' sniff card. I'd certainly be back to one of these if it didn't take me an average movie runtime to get to Woodbury and back (and that's without snow falling). It's a super fun way of getting to experience an old favorite -- or maybe just something you've been meaning to see for years -- on a screen that's bigger than your television and a sound system that's better than your home theater. It's not cheap -- the tickets are about the same price as a new movie's nighttime showing and you're almost certain to spend two to three times that much on food and drink. But if you think of it as supporting the moviegoing experience, something that seems legitimately endangered these days, and specifically a chain with genuine love of movies and respect for exhibiting them properly, it seems like money well spent.

Related Reviews:
Scrooged (Blu-ray) Elf The Muppet Christmas Carol White Christmas It's a Wonderful Life
Now in Theaters: Knives Out A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Frozen II Charlie's Angels Marriage Story

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Published December 6, 2019.



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