When Amanda DuPont saw the email Monday afternoon, it almost felt like Christmas had been canceled in Boise.
“My heart sank,” she says.
The message informed hundreds of Treasure Valley moviegoers that the 1954 musical comedy “White Christmas” had been yanked last-minute at the Egyptian Theatre. All ticket holders got their Boise Classic Movies accounts credited back at 110 percent for the screenings, which were planned for Dec. 6 and 12.
The Egyptian Theatre and its fans got Scrooged.
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Competitor Edwards Cinemas will be showing “White Christmas” next week instead.
For the first time in years, DuPont and her husband, Corey, will not scramble to find two seats together in the historic, 750-capacity Egyptian. They won’t laugh at the garish holiday outfits and marvel at the festive Downtown crowd. She won’t fight back tears when a roomful of strangers croons along with Bing Crosby.
“It just gets me every time,” she says.
The idea of “White Christmas” exclusively at Edwards makes her emotional, too — as in upset.
“The issue is ... they are stealing a holiday tradition from the people of Boise for the sake of profit,” DuPont, 29, says. “It’s just bad business.”
“White Christmas” will be shown Dec. 9 and 12 at Edwards 9 Cinemas and Edwards 21 Cinemas. It’s part of a 600-theater, nationwide event.
That’s where things get uglier than the sweater contests held at the Egyptian each year.
“That booking gives them the right to refuse any other screening of the show in the region,” explains Boise Classic Movies, which refers only to “the big theater chain” in the email. “Now, they’ve run movies that we have at similar times in the past (even ‘White Christmas’ a couple years ago), but they’ve never exercised their refusal right … until now. Whether it was the national booking agency or the theater itself who refused the show, we don’t know, but it really doesn’t matter. This is how the film booking game works.”
I reached out to Edwards 21 Cinemas. I’m told the production company made the decision.
Whatever the specifics, it’s possible that whoever made the call had no knowledge of the Egyptian Theatre tradition. It’s only happened for half a decade or so. Boise Classic Movies has put on film events at the Egyptian since 2012. Would some out-of-state decisionmaker care that “White Christmas” at the Egyptian is one of those little things that helps make Boise feel special?
Either way, there didn’t seem to be wiggle room. “We desperately wanted to show the movie and looked under every rock we could find to keep the screening on,” Boise Classic Movies says. “We even begged the distributor to let us show it for free as a canned food drive, just to keep folks from missing the show. But the title is blacked out altogether.”
Boise Classic Movies founder Wyatt Werner did not seem interested in elaborating. He declined my request for a phone interview. (Dude, like, where’s the holiday spirit?)
“Our line is that we hope folks will go see ‘White Christmas’ on the big screen wherever they can because that’s where a movie like that belongs,” he replied via email. “We’ll put it up at the Egyptian whenever we can, but this year it’s the other guys’ turn.
“Our mission is to put movies people love up on the big screen, and we support anyone else who might be doing the same. I’ll be at the Edwards screening.”
DuPont doesn’t imagine he’ll see many familiar faces. “I don’t think that people who are going to go to ‘White Christmas’ at the Egyptian Theatre are the same people who are going to show up at the Edwards’ ‘White Christmas,’” she says. “My husband and I, we wouldn’t go to the one at Edwards. That’s not why we go. We go because everybody goes. It’s like this community thing, and everybody’s together, and you sit next to the person you sat next to last year. It’s fun. There’s a whole spirit about it.”
It’s like traveling a few extra miles to visit a local coffee shop rather than Starbucks, she explains. “I’m willing to drive extra and pay more for the experience, and I think other people are, too.”
After DuPont and I spoke, she contacted Boise Classic Movies to ask if a different movie was showing the same night. She’d already lined up a babysitter. The answer was no, but she was offered two tickets to the sold-out “Die Hard” on Tuesday.
“Now this is good business,” she wrote me in a follow-up email. “This is is the epitome of the Christmas spirit. By some miracle, I was able to get a last-second babysitter, so the tradition will live on! There won’t be any tearful Christmas caroling (I don’t think), but the sense of community will still be there, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Don’t you just love a happy ending?”
I do. If “White Christmas” returns to the Egyptian Theatre in 2019, I might even do some caroling myself.