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Del Oro’s midnight movies increase the cool factor

It’s a chilly night in downtown Grass Valley, and as the hands of the clock creep close to midnight on a recent Saturday, many of the city’s night owls pool outside the entrance to the Del Oro Theatre for a late-night showing of the burgeoning cult classic, “Donnie Darko.”

On this night, there’s a carnival atmosphere that’s difficult to define. Part of it may be because there’s a man in a bunny costume standing on Mill Street, yelling at his friends.

It could be because this is the biggest throng of young people I’ve seen in this county at any one time that didn’t involve alcohol.



It could be because inside the theater, the staff urges clusters of people to stop standing and chatting so the film can start.

It could be because part of the pre-show rules lullaby from this staff includes the comic “no vomiting” rule, which I overheard stems from an unfortunate incident during the showing of “There’s Something About Mary.”




It could be that because nearly everyone knows how the film ends, they seem to be more apt to relax.

While I can’t explain the mood, I can say that moviegoers at the most recent showing of Del Oro Theatre’s bi-monthly midnight film series were as varied a bunch as the interpretations of the conclusion to “Darko.”

And if I thought seeing “Donnie Darko” at midnight was a spectacle, I’m amped to see what happens this Saturday when “Rocky Horror Picture Show” takes the screen.

I find the concept of these showings fascinating. It’s a stark contrast to the cities I’ve lived in before. I grew up in the suburbs of Denver, where a plush, cushy, brand-new cineplex was within a 15-minute drive from my parents’ home. This alone makes the experience of going to the Del Oro something wholly different.

To me, the midnight movie series and the theater in which it’s held add to the character of this area. Such showings were rare in my hometown. I seem to recall them happening for the release of the “Star Wars” films. That’s about it.

So, one can understand why I enjoyed telling my friends last fall that the last film I’d seen in the theater was “Reservoir Dogs.”

A further bonus is that I never would’ve seen some of these movies on the big screen otherwise. It makes me hope they’ll show other things I’ve always wished to see. Can we can mix “Bullitt” into the rotation? I can’t be the only one who wants to see the King of Cool coast down those San Francisco streets in pursuit of the bad guys. How about some classic films, such as “Citizen Kane,” “Casablanca” or the first two in the “Godfather” trilogy? Maybe even a little “Big Lebowski”?

While those hopes may never materialize, I’m going to continue to head to the Del Oro late on Saturday nights anticipating two shows – the one on the screen and the one in the audience. It’s too rare and too cool an opportunity to pass up.

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The name Hop on Pop is the title of a 1963 book by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel. Nick DeCicco is a copy editor and pop culture columnist for The Union. He may be reached via e-mail at nickd@theunion.com or by phone at 477-4270.


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