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Jean Cocteau and Me

I had not intended to mention this until somewhat further down the line, when my plans were a bit more advanced, but the Santa Fe NEW MEXICAN got wind of a recent real estate transaction of mine and ran the story this morning, so the cat is now out of the bag. (The cat in this case perhaps being Jean Cocteau's original Beast? No, not really, but it's an amusing coincidence, considering my years on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST).

Anyway, I don't intend to say much here, since there is as yet not much to say... but I will fess up to basics, since I see the story is already out on the internet and I would rather not be bombarded with hundreds of "is it true?" emails.

Yes, it's true. I've bought a movie theatre.

Here it is:


The Jean Cocteau is a small Santa Fe art house, with a single screen and 127 seats. It was built in the early 70s as the Collective Fantasy, became the Cocteau later in that decade, went through several local owners who ran it well, and finally became part of the Trans-Lux chain. They closed it in April, 2006, when they shut down their entire chain of theaters. After that it supposedly became the site of the New Mexico Film Museum, but the museum was never funded and never had any exhibits, so that was more in theory than in practice. Aside from a few special showings for the state film commission, which used to have its offices upstairs, the theater has been dark since 2006.

Before that, however, it was one of the city's nicest film venues. It offered coffee and pastries, and had the best popcorn in town, fresh-popped with real butter and parmesan cheese. I saw a lot of movies at the Cocteau between 1979, when I moved to Santa Fe, and 2006, when it closed. I like the idea of bringing it back, better than ever.

I will not be doing it myself, of course. So please, readers, fans, don't get nuts. I am a novelist and a screenwriter, not a theatre manager, it won't be me standing at the concession stand asking if you want butter on your popcorn. My job remains the same as before: editing anthologies, creating and producing television and writing the occasional script, and... first, foremost, always... completing A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE. This does not change that.

I love movies and old movie theatres, and it broke my heart to drive past the Jean Cocteau for these past seven years and see it sitting there, dark and decaying. Bringing this beloved theatre back to life is my small gesture at giving something back to Santa Fe, the community that has been my home since 1979. Might be that I will lose my shirt... but, hey, I've been very lucky, I have other shirts.

For those of you who want to read the story that broke the news, the link is here:


We're having a press conference on Tuesday to detail our plans for the Cocteau to the local media, FYI. If anyone reading this is local media, you're welcome to attend.

More than that, I cannot say at this time.


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Apr. 21st, 2013 10:38 pm (UTC)
Unrelated, but have you seen this direwolf puppy's reaction to your book? :D

(Haven't posted here before, but I have very much enjoyed your ASOIAF series. Thanks for sharing your writing with us!)
Apr. 21st, 2013 11:21 pm (UTC)
The Faceless Men!!!
Man, I almost chocked on that morsel :¬)

I can only guess the name of your next endeavour...
Apr. 21st, 2013 11:22 pm (UTC)
Watching five+ seasons of HBO's Game of Thrones with the soundtrack off while a Mighty Wurlitzer sets the mood would be fantastic! True, that wonderful machine costs a queen's ransom, but maybe the Orpheum Theatre in Iowa would accept an advance copy of The Winds of Winter as payment.
Apr. 22nd, 2013 04:20 am (UTC)
looking forward to its reopening. I'm sure you'll have a good manager and staff to run it. it's only a Rail Runner away!
Apr. 22nd, 2013 07:19 am (UTC)
Congratulations, and a quick question about the press conference on Tuesday
What a splendid thing to do! I have always loved the Jean Cocteau Theater! It is wonderful that you plan on reviving it- what a gift to Santa Fe! I remember Cocteau himself said, "A film is a petrified fountain of thought."
Would you be so kind as to tell me what time on Tuesday you will be holding the press conference? Thank you!
Apr. 22nd, 2013 05:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Congratulations, and a quick question about the press conference on Tuesday
3 pm

Who is this? Are you press?
Apr. 22nd, 2013 07:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Congratulations, and a quick question about the press conference on Tuesday
You asked who I am, and am I a member of the Press? My name is Lorene Mills and I am the host of PBS-TV's "Report from Santa Fe," a statewide interview program that has been on the air here for almost 50 years. I am an admirer of your writings and your vision. And I applaud this new adventure you are embarking upon with the Jean Cocteau Theater! Thank you so much.

Apr. 22nd, 2013 11:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Congratulations, and a quick question about the press conference on Tuesday
You're welcome. Thanks for the kind words.

Apr. 22nd, 2013 12:30 pm (UTC)
"Movie night at my place" suddenly has a whole new meaning.
Congrats, preserving something like this in your community instead of seeing it go to rubble!
Linda Storey
Apr. 22nd, 2013 01:50 pm (UTC)
Fitting you should buy an arthouse--I was thinking last night during episode four that GoT on tv is like watching living art. Look forward to visiting next time I'm in Santa Fe.
Apr. 22nd, 2013 02:14 pm (UTC)
I think that it's awesome that you've done this. I love going to the big multi-plex threatres for the latest blockbuster release, but the smaller art house kind of places seem to really be the soul of the cities in which they reside.

Here in Tampa, we have the historic Tampa Threatre, which for all of its outdated seating, sound, and screen, remains my favorite venue of all.
Apr. 22nd, 2013 04:05 pm (UTC)
That's so awesome!
Edward MacWhirter
Apr. 22nd, 2013 06:27 pm (UTC)
Make sure to leave plenty of room in the budget for asbestos removal; 70's buildings are often full of the stuff and when discovered it can cost a lot of money and time to safely remove. I'd be very surprised if the Cocteau is asbestos free.
A couple of years ago I watched The Roxy Theater in Wellington, New Zealand change from a derelict shell into an art deco picture palace. A fantastic restoration and a great addition to the community, may the Cocteau be just as successful!
Apr. 22nd, 2013 11:33 pm (UTC)
The building dates from 1910 or so, not the 70s. I've had it inspected. No asbestos.
Apr. 22nd, 2013 08:33 pm (UTC)
the art of film: Gangs of Wasseypur
oh wow!!! congrats on your theater... i'm a movie fanatic... what a business to own, wow.

i know this comment is kinda ridiculous i bet i can't even fathom how busy you are or how many things u've put on the back burner to watch or read... i can't help myself though

I recently saw a movie (which was shown at Cannes, has a 100% rotten tomatoes rating (albeit with 9 reviews) and currently holds an 8.2 on imDB)called Gangs of Wasseypur. although it tells the story of the rise and fall of the indian mafia in a state torn with corruption and poverty (no musical here)... it reminded me of your work when i saw it. the characters are so damn real and complex... anything i say or don't say is actually a disservice to the work itself... all i can hope to do is put it on your radar at the chance u may take a look at it urself.

i personally believe it would be a fantastic film for your art theater... and give the people a taste of something i doubt they have ever had the chance to see before. even if u never are able to get the reel... u should definitely watch it for urself. it's amazing...

Edited at 2013-04-22 08:36 pm (UTC)
Apr. 22nd, 2013 09:02 pm (UTC)
Theater Savior
I don't use to comment in your blog but you have touched me deeply with this post. I LOVE OLD THEATERS. In fact it been already 15 years since I first started to investigate about movie theaters in Havana. There's a lot of them, & most of then are closed or in ruins. And now you're the owner of one in your hometown, and there's plans for it. Good for you!!! I wish you all the luck in the world in this project. Pitty I cannot be there for the press conference.
Greetings from HAVANA, CUBA
Gonzalo Morán
(Tolkiendil & Westerossi promotor in Havana)
Apr. 23rd, 2013 01:07 am (UTC)
This is a great idea. Certain popular on-demand Internet streaming companies haven't overly welcomed independent filmmakers and writers.

Santa Fe has a solid streak of supporting such artists. You won't lose your shirt while working in a shirt store, Mr. Martin.
Apr. 23rd, 2013 07:56 am (UTC)
That's commendable, good Ser. You're fighting the good fight.
Apr. 23rd, 2013 10:11 am (UTC)
Are you planning on going 501(c)(3)?
A majority of small art houses have shifted to being non-profits recently. It's the best choice to break even and keep the place running for the community. I work for one, but we're not new at it. We've been operating as a community-driven non-profit for 30 years. If the Jean Cocteau didn't add DCI digital capability before it closed, then doing so is, unfortunately, required at this point. There's a looming threat in independent exhibition, soon there will no longer be many physical prints made of new releases. At our theater we're finally buckling under at and adding digital capability side-by-side with the old film projectors. I encourage you to do that if possible and show things on film when you can, as movies still look better in that format. If your future plans do involve becoming a 501(c)(3), and the folks who you select to head it up would like the input of some old hands at operating one, they should feel free to contact The Capri Theatre in Montgomery, Alabama. We're always happy to help other single screens out - we're a dying breed, after all. (Edit: removed the link to our website, as that made LJ flag this post as spam.)

Edited at 2013-04-23 10:49 am (UTC)
Apr. 24th, 2013 01:14 pm (UTC)
I give you big Russian-style kiss on each cheek!
Shawnee May
Apr. 24th, 2013 02:51 pm (UTC)
Old Movie Theaters
This is exciting news! Congratulations! I grew up in a small fishing village on the east end of Long Island where I spent much of my youth on the water and at the local movie theater.....and what a theater it was! A big art deco beauty complete with a stage,a balcony and velvet curtains and seats. The original theater was destroyed by the hurricane of '38, but was rebuilt shortly after to it's former glory. As a rather strange ten year old girl who was obsessed with James Bond movies (that Aston Martin and all those incredible gadgets at Bond's disposal!)I spent many happy times in that theater when I wasn't on the water and I miss it to this day. Here's to wishing you the best of luck with your acquisition of the beautiful Jean Cocteau! I hope it proves to be the source of many cherished memories in times to come.
Apr. 24th, 2013 08:39 pm (UTC)
How lovely to be in the position to foster something which has been lost in some many parts of our country.

I live in the Hudson Valley area of NY. There is a theater in Rhinebeck called Upstate Films. It also has fresh popcorn with actual butter (instead of yellow grease) and various yummies to purchase. In the autumn, there is mulled cider, a dollar a cup. They feature art, foreign, and older films.

Also, in Poughkeepsie, our opera house has old showings of films and a wurlitzer, which is played at the beginning, or during silent films.

My life has been enriched by having the availability of such theaters. Otherwise, there are many films I never would have seen. What a wonderful gift to that community.

Bill Greene
Apr. 25th, 2013 06:41 pm (UTC)
Too many small movie houses close their doors forever in the face of competition from huge multiplexes. It is awesome to see one of my favourite authors preserving an important bit of the film world.

One of the most enjoyable movie going experiences in the last couple of years, for me, was going back to the very small town I grew up in and taking in a film. While Men in Black III wasn't that great a film, the experience was incredible. Popcorn and soda were nearly half the price of the big chain theatres, music played in the theatre preshow, there were no obnoxious ads before the film and with the trailers, no flashy title animations... just two previews and then the feature.

Plus the seats were comfortable, and the arms lifted up, so my fiancee and I were able to sit closer together.

Good job, Mr. Martin!
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