A small-town theater owner says he wasn’t trying to send Hollywood a message when he shut down for two weeks rather than show box-office leader “Jackass 2” or other new releases that he calls “drivel.”
But even if not purposeful, Greg Boardman’s blank-screened protest is getting a thumbs up from moviegoers who long for family fare and jeers from others who say his theaters are one of the few diversions — especially for children — in this farming town of about 6,000 people.
“They’re not appropriate for really anybody, but I sure wouldn’t let my kids go into one of them ... Those are his convictions and he needs to stand by them,” Steve Lloyd, 59, of nearby Rossville said of offerings such as “Beerfest” and the “Jackass” sequel that briefly landed a “Closed” sign on the marquee outside Boardman’s Lorraine Theatre.
“Jackass” features Johnny Knoxville and his gang performing crazy stunts often involving self-inflicted pain; “Beerfest” revolves around fictional siblings who participate in an Olympics-style drinking competition.
The 84-year-old, 500-seat Lorraine in downtown Hoopeston reopened Friday, showing Disney’s football biopic “Invincible,” while an 85-seat sister theater down the street relit its screen with Sony’s animated kids movie “Open Season.”
Hoopeston native P.J. Clingenpeel said the projectors should never have been turned off in the first place. He said the two-week shutdown only hurt children in this town where Boardman’s movie houses and a skating rink are about all they have to do outside of school and sports.
“All he did was ruin a lot of kids’ weekends. That’s why I think he’s a crybaby,” said Clingenpeel, a 30-year-old welder.
‘The movies are so bad’Boardman says he’s sorry that darkened screens cut into the town’s limited entertainment options. But he says he’ll shut down again if faced with a similar batch of films, adding that contractual issues with the studios — such as guarantees on first-week receipts — sometimes limit his options.
“The movies are so bad and I don’t need the money ... I just didn’t think I should use my high-quality facilities to show people vomiting on screen,” said Boardman, whose theaters boast a high-tech, eight-channel digital sound system.
Boardman grew up near Hoopeston but now runs his theaters from his home near Fresno, Calif. He says shutting down the theaters was based strictly on his personal standards, not censorship or an effort to shelter people in the small town.
Over the years, his theaters have screened controversial films such as “Brokeback Mountain” and plenty of action movies, he said. And during the shutdown, the Lorraine’s customer hot line told callers they could catch “Jackass 2” at theaters in nearby Danville.
“There are enough theaters carrying movies like “Jackass” that if people want to see them they can. ... The problem now is that there are too few good movies, movies that transplant you to another place,” Boardman said in a telephone interview.
Not making a statement about HollywoodYvonne Green, who manages the Lorraine, said the shutdown sent a ripple of anxiety through Hoopeston because Boardman has been trying to sell the theaters and many townspeople thought they were closing for good.
Most were understanding when she explained the shutdown was temporary, said Green, who was paid during the two weeks the theaters were closed. She also said she backs Boardman’s decision, based on the movies he had to chose from.
“They’re just not good. I just don’t know how to say it and not say anything nasty,” Green said. “They just weren’t appropriate for anyone to see.”
Paramount Pictures, which produced the “Jackass” sequel, did not immediately return a call for comment Friday.
Boardman said the shutdown wasn’t a veiled message to moviemakers and he doubts studios will take notice, despite national media attention that followed the temporary closing.
“I think I’m way too small to make any kind of statement to Hollywood,” Boardman said.
His supporters around Hoopeston agree, though some still held onto a glimmer of hope.
“I think it was a good idea to close until he had something worth seeing,” said Myra Goodrum, 51, a bus driver for Hoopeston schools. “If they made more good movies, more families would go. But I doubt Hollywood’s going to notice us. We’re just kind of a hole in the wall.”