Julia Marchese is a filmmaker, actor, podcaster, cinephile and film programmer living in Hollywood, California. Her first film was the award-winning documentary Out of Print, about the importance of revival cinema and 35 mm exhibition to culture, and she is currently the co-host of the popular horror podcast Horror Movie Survival Guide. She recently crowdfunded on IndieGoGo for her forthcoming Dollar Baby short film I Know What You Need, based on Stephen King’s story of the same name from Night Shift. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @juliacmarchese.
If you’re a film lover, you know that showing movies you love to people you love – or sharing a film new to all of you – is one of the most incredible feelings.
Programming at the New Beverly Cinema, the Prince Charles Cinema, the Somerville Theatre, Scalarama and others gave me such great joy because I got to experience movies I adore as if for the first time, hearing what jokes or scares the audience reacted to that I may not have noticed, and having the honor of introducing people to a movie they may otherwise have missed, or not been able to see on the big screen. A form of giving enjoyment to others, in a way.
But, of course, talking about the film afterwards is the real treat.
Not only have I been lucky enough to program at so many incredible cinemas, but I’m also fortunate enough to have my own exclusive, weekly movie night that I have helped program for the past 15 years.
I used to work alongside my friend Matt at the New Beverly, and in 2008 it became a ritual for us to go over to our friend Cathie’s apartment after work and watch a movie. It was a late start, we often didn’t get off of work until 10:30pm or later, but we just couldn’t get enough movies packed into our day. It started off just the three of us, showing off our top favorite films.
We all love VHS and it started off exclusively in that format. My large color-coordinated wall of VHS tapes always has new titles to explore, and we loved looking into random films that sometimes hadn’t even been transferred to DVD or Blu-ray yet. The format somehow feels just right for watching alongside your friends and maybe having a drink or two, laughing and chatting afterwards about the film and how it was perceived through each of our different cinematic lenses.
It carried on that way for a few weeks, and then started expanding. Cathie’s boyfriend and her roommate started to join us, some other New Bev folks heard about it and wanted to join, so they were invited, and from there it became an absolute revolving door of people and apartments. Cathie dropped out, other new folks showed up. I would wager more than 40 people have come and gone from movie night in some capacity – some only coming for a night, some staying for months and years. We’ve moved through five apartments, but have always strived to keep it going. Matt and I have been the constant thread throughout it all.
Fast forward to 2023, and movie night lives on!
Here’s how it works: We meet every Monday night (now at the more family-friendly time of 8 p.m.), and every week we rotate whose turn it is to pick the film. But here’s the kicker: the person who brings the movie also has to bring the snacks, which have to connect in some way to the film from the week before.
So, say we watched Mystic Pizza this week, you can bet there’s gonna be some slices the next Monday. Or some ramen for Tampopo, Cornettos for Shaun of the Dead – whatever it is! It’s always fun and random to watch what people eat and drink in a movie. (And yes, there have been some films where people eat or drink next to nothing, but that doesn’t mean we do!)
People always try to please with our snacks, but sometimes we go above and beyond in the name of the fellowship. We’ve had a Godzilla made of melon, all black-and-white foods for a black-and-white film, and a cake complete with a pink cassette in honor of Mae West’s final film, Sextette (which you must watch if you haven’t seen). I spent months perfecting my Rice Krispie treat recipe, delighted to have a test audience. (The secret? Apple pie spice.)
I polled my movie night chums on what was the most memorable snack we have ever had and the answer was unanimous – the brutal ice cream death of Edward Hermann from the 1975 movie The Great Waldo Pepper. In the film, Hermann’s character meets an awful, fiery end, and so to help us work through the trauma of that scene, movie night member David recreated the incident with an eerily spot-on ice cream sculpture of his face, added some cherries flambé and got an unsettlingly gory result. Our trauma was purged and the ice cream was delicious – everyone was a winner!
Because movie night has now been going on weekly for 15 years, we have gone through nearly every film we have in our “show-to-friends” pile and are now just working our way through whatever sounds cinematically interesting to us. And there’s absolutely no judgment.
Our motto: We Know No Veto.
And that’s really the crux of the glory of movie night.
It’s such a liberating feeling to have the ability to give the reins to a friend and completely trust that no matter what the movie is, you’re still going to have a rad time. Because when you’re with friends, every movie is a blast – you can all experience it together and make it enjoyable. (Pro tip: Watch every movie with subtitles, so you can talk over the film if you need to and still catch the dialogue! Although we are quite stringent movie watchers!)
Because everyone who attends movie night has a totally different film taste and exploration style, the cinematic scope is mind-boggling! From Alphaville to Meet the Feebles, The Happiest Millionaire to Paprika, Gymkata to Predestination, Stage Door to Pink Flamingos – anything goes!
We’ve watched Sarah Michelle Gellar cook with crabs in top hats next to a Busby Berkeley musical, a stop-motion animation musical about the Manson Murders voiced by Green Day followed by Ikiru by Kurosawa, a Marquis de Sade puppet film right next to Auntie Mame, and then I Am Not Your Negro the next week – we love exploring every single genre, subgenre and sub-subgenre of film.
Our movie night crew is a dynamic and ever-evolving group of cinephiles, currently consisting of six passionate members. We always eagerly anticipate each member’s choice of film and snacks, which is shrouded in mystery until we gather for the screening. The member choosing that week takes center stage to share their personal connection and insights about the movie, and tells us anything special to look out for.
Here are the members and what they’re most likely to choose (although we are surprised by people’s choices all the time, so this is in no way limited!):
Teri – Musicals, new releases, most likely to pick something way out in left field
Paul – Foreign and indie films, movies featuring computers gaining sentience
Matt – Horror, action, classic Monsters, ’80s video-store faves
Melanie – Romance, live-action Disney, movies she has heard of but never seen
David – Anime, foreign, new movies he missed in theaters
Julia – Cult films, musicals, British, something involving a cute boy she likes
The joy of having the ability to bring anything, a true reflection of your taste and creativity, surrounded by open-minded friends who respect and support your choices – that’s really what will make it work. With no drama or judgment, there is freedom to showcase any film you desire in this easygoing community of cinephiles. Whether it’s a blockbuster or an indie gem, we come together to celebrate the beauty of cinema, regardless of its genre.
When the pandemic hit, losing movie night was really hard. We continued on as best we could with an online chat room and movie watch-along, courtesy of our tech genius, Paul. He would curate a wonderful trailer show for each film, always utterly fitting just perfectly with the movie, in some way. He also would add a sign-off at the very end, picked exquisitely – a Canadian TV sign-off for a film set north of the border, an animated one for an anime, even vintage local sign-offs from the city where the movie was set. So much fun. When restrictions started to lift, movie night was the one thing we wanted to come back to as soon as we could, so we spent months watching movies masked and socially distanced on the roof deck of Matt’s place, no matter the weather. Although it felt sad not to hug everyone as usual, it was so nice to have the comfort of movie night back.
Now we are back in full force, hugging each other and all sitting together on the couch as before. This past Christmas, I had keychains made for the Movie Night Gang, expounding our We Know No Veto motto and giving us a little something to make us smile throughout the day.
Our movie night is honestly what every film nerd dreams of – a close group of cinephile pals who get together every week for snacks, drinks, conversation, movies and connection.
It transforms my mundane Monday nights into a personal cinematic oasis. A safe space not unlike a church, where we worship cinema in our own way and share it with the ones we love, with absolutely no discrimination.
So what’s stopping you from creating your own movie night? Unleash your inner cinephile and transform your evenings into an intimate, movie-immersed dream palace. Embrace the opportunity to unwind, be yourself and express your creativity through the magic of film and friendship.
I promise you won’t regret it.