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By Ron Wells | October 24, 2001

Let’s get a few facts straight. First, whenever a movie’s title starts with “Wes Craven’s”, unless it’s “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare”, it probably means that the horror auteur didn’t direct the film, but only executive produced it. This latest incarnation of Dracula is actually helmed by Patrick Lussier, the editor of Craven’s last six films.
Second, when a film doesn’t have any press screenings and is dumped in the middle of a heavy release schedule, it means the studio doesn’t have any faith in it and are giving the film a chance to die as quickly and quietly as possible. This of course means that (horror of horrors) I had to pay to see a movie for a change. This also meant that for once I could choose where I saw a film, and the wife just gave me a book about Los Angeles’ old movie palaces for Christmas. It just so happens that in Robert Berger and Anne Conser’s book “The Last Remaining Seats” there’s a theater downtown called the Palace, which is currently showing “Dracula 2000”.
Now, for those unaware of the history of movie-going in the home of the entertainment industry, L.A. was not always the decentralized mess it is today. Before the construction of the movie palaces in Hollywood, all the great theaters were on or around Broadway downtown. If you walk down this street today from 3rd St (The Million Dollar Theater and the Bradbury building seen in “Blade Runner”) to Olympic (The United Artists Theater), the location of many of the smaller houses are now only marked by their marquees. However, nearly all of the really huge theaters are relatively intact. Unfortunately, only the Palace and the Orpheum still run new movies on a daily basis. Now places like the Orpheum, the Los Angeles, the State, and the Million Dollar Theaters are the largest, all will seating capacities over 2000. The sign on the Palace said 1200, still larger than what most people have in their own towns. Built as a vaudeville house in 1911, the Palace hosted the likes of Will Rogers, W.C. Fields, and Harry Houdini.
Sadly, the place is not really in the greatest shape today. “Drac2K” played on a double-bill with “Charlie’s Angels” with apparently no one to either clear the audience between shows or clean the aisles between days. I’d wondered why the last show of the day (the one I saw) was only at 5:45, until I realized that 1) downtown becomes a ghost town by 6:30, and 2) management apparently didn’t want to heat the theater. Granted, this is Los Angeles, but I was still glad I brought a sweatshirt.
In my book, there’s some great photos of the detailed design of the theater. Unfortunately, since the only lights turned on between shows were directly under the balcony, I couldn’t really see any of that, either. Now… wait, what was I doing? Oh, yeah the movie. Okay, not to be confused with “Dracula 1972 A.D.”, “Drac2K” comes to the table with basically two ideas. First, since Abraham Van Helsing could never figure out how to permanently dispatch the king of the vampires in any of the other movies, he instead chose to capture him and stay alive long enough himself until he could find a way to kill his nemesis. Second, maybe Dracula was not the first identity of the man who seems to be the first vampire. Maybe he began life as some other historical figure that could properly explain his weaknesses and differences from other bloodsuckers.
Anyway, the count (Gerard Butler) is safely locked away until a band of high-tech thieves break into his prison vault looking for treasure. He makes a bee-line from London to New Orleans (during Mardis Gras, of course) for a strange girl named Mary (Justine Waddell) of whom he’s had visions. Mary, a clerk at VIRGIN RECORDS (get it?), has been having a few visions of the old man herself. It’s up to Van Helsing’s assistant Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) to save the day.
My basic view of this cinema experience is that both the venue and the movie could be great with a little more time and detail work. The filmmakers were stuck with a script containing good ideas poorly executed. The theater just needs some attention, a few light bulbs and a friggin’ heater. A few months of effort in both directions could have provided a much more pleasant experience. At least for the Palace, there’s still time.

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