Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Seen on the Big Screen in South Dakota

exterior of Elks Theater Rapid City, South Dakota
You have to admit “Bring Your Own Bag Night” is genius. It’s one of the many little promotions offered at the Historic Elks Theater in Rapid City, South Dakota. It’s not unlimited popcorn, just three scoops, but it’s free with your movie ticket. Again, if you bring your own bag. Apparently you can’t just hold out your freakishly large hands for the three free scoops or have them pour the popcorn into your jacket pocket. We weren’t there on bring your own bag night, but they still refilled our large bag. (I brought the popcorn back to the motel room and enjoyed it for the next day.)

After buying our two tickets, we were given a card with two stamps. Five stamps gets you a free movie, but since we’d be in town just a few more days, we gave our card to the people behind us in line.

friendly and competent employee at Elks Theater in Rapid City, South Dakota
But really, the best gimmick they have at the Elks is friendly employees. We’ve been to many chain theaters this year in many parts of the country, and many of them seem to be recruiting from the zombie employment pool. At the Elks, on the other hand, the woman at the ticket counter was bright and friendly. She smiled broadly and asked us if we’d been there before. We told her about this year’s quest to visit a movie theater in every state, and she seemed genuinely interested. She asked what we’d seen of interest in other theaters.

The other employees I met at the snack bar also were friendly and attentive. This is a remarkable trend that the big movie chains ought to look into.

Display of equipment at Elks Theater in Rapid City, South Dakota
The Elks seems to be a very well run and pleasant independent theater with a distinguished history. The one negative I noticed was the long stairway to the second screen where we viewed our film. Since I hadn’t a chance to exercise that day, I appreciated the opportunity for a little workout, but I noticed a couple of older folks breathing hard as they entered the theater.

The movie we went to see was Priceless. Not that the movie itself came without cost. It was $5. Priceless was the title.

I’ve noted that in many regions of the United States, particularly in rural areas, certain movies that never play. Art and foreign films rarely make their way out of the big cities. On the other hand, there are certain films that seem to make it to a place like Rapid City, but don’t make it to, say, my hometown of Santa Rosa, California.

In Rapid City we could see Priceless, a Christian film about human trafficking, but it’s not playing in Santa Rosa. On the other hand, in Santa Rosa you can see the Swedish film, En man som heter Ove (A Man Called Ove), which you can’t see in Rapid City.

Priceless has yet to receive a critic’s consensus at Rotten Tomatoes (but it does have a positive audience rating of 94%). The only actor most people might recognize is David Koechner (who played jerk Todd Packer on The Office). But listeners to Christian radio may recognize the film’s star, Joel Smallbone, who’s the lead singer for the band King and Country.

The film claims to be based on true events, but I couldn’t help thinking more than a few liberties were taken. The hero of our film, James, finds himself unwittingly involved in a seedy operation, transporting undocumented aliens who are sold into prostitution.

James encounters a corrupt cop, which apparently leads him to believe that no one in local law enforcement can be trusted, so he must single handedly rescue two women from dangerous thugs. Sadly, the film never warns kids in the audience not to try this at home.

The plotting and the action was about at the level of your average episode of Starsky and Hutch, which puts it above your average Christian film. There isn’t much Scripture, Gospel, or theology in the film beyond “the sex trade is bad,” a message with which I can heartily agree.

And the theme song by King and Country isn’t half bad. (There is no church or clergy in the film to earn a Movie Church Steeple Rating.)

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