Only in Theaters DVD Review: If You Love Movies, It’s a Must-see

Ironically, watching last year’s documentary Only In Theaters, filmed by Raphael Sbarge, I felt regret for doing so on DVD. It actually makes me what to start going to the movie theaters again, despite the fact that I mostly don’t have the money to do that, and where I live, there aren’t many theaters around.

The film traces the legacy of the Laemmle family, who started a popular arthouse theater chain in Los Angeles that thrived since the 1940s, but is now struggling to keep the chain going, especially due to the pandemic and other turbulent times in America. But, no matter how bad things get, they possess the determination to the keep alive the art of moviegoing, not to mention of the general art of film, as well as to support the essence of filmmaking as a whole.

By weaving home movies and films from their personal family archives, the doc also tells a compelling story about the Laemmles’ complicated history, while Greg Laemmle, the current head of the theater chain, is conflicted about selling the family business, and eventually decides not to.

There are talking heads (such as filmmakers Ava DuVernay, Nicole Holofcener, Allison Anders, and Cameron Crowe, among others) who describe their memories of seeing films, including those courtesy of the Laemmle, and also expressing how going to the movies is a shared experience.

As much as I enjoyed this and found it devastating, I wish that it could have been shorter, and some of the more personal moments were a little too revealing. It felt like I was seeing private dramas that shouldn’t be for the audience. There have been many documentaries that also do this, but I guess they wouldn’t be as deep and honest as they are without scenes of real and human fragility.

Despite those few gripes, this is a great watch to not only see how important the role of cinema plays in our daily lives, but to also see how a family has triumphed during some of the grimmest times in their lives. If you love movies, Only In Theaters should be a definite must-see for you.

Special features of the Kino DVD include audio commentary by Sbarge; alternate opening sequence; additional interviews with DuVernay, Crowe, Kenneth Turan, and Leonard Maltin, and more.

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