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THE

Defender Picks

 

Lundi

June 26th

Pizza For Pitbulls

Reginelli’s, 11AM

Eat pizza to help dogs, really. Benefitting the Love A Pitbull Foundation

 

Justin Molaison

Chickie Wah Wah, 5:30PM

Happy hour tunes

 

Let’s Get Quizzical

Port Orleans Brewing Co., 6:30PM

Food, drinks, trivia

 

Salves + Infused Oils Workshop

Rosalie Apothecary, 7PM

Last class of the Heart of Herbal Medicine Series 

 

Choral Festival

St. Louis Cathedral, 7:30PM

Presented by the N.O. Children’s Choir

 

Breathe LOVE Yoga

Revolution Fitness, 7:30PM

Hatha Yoga Basics

 

Little Tybee + Cliff Hines + Friends

Hi Ho, 8PM

Elements of folk, jazz, psych, and bossa

 

Mondays with Tasche

Mags, 8PM

Vintage soul and modern blues

 

Charlie Gabriel & Friends

Preservation Hall, 8PM

Joined by Taslimah P. Bey, Djallo Djakate, Marion Hayden

 

A Motown Monday

Circle Bar, 9:30PM

With DJ Shane Love

 

Monday Music Therapy

Lucky’s, 10PM

With CSE & Natasha Sanchez

 

MARDI

June 27th

Movie Screening

Broad Theater, 5:30PM

An intimate screening of America Divided

 

Book Signing

Garden District Book Shop, 6PM

Appearences by Courtney + J.P. Sloan

 

Movie Screening

Café Istanbul, 6:30PM

Trapped: A story of women + healthcare

 

Song Writer Sessions

Foundation Room, 7PM

Supporting NOLA’s songwriting community

 

MORBID ANGEL + Suffocation

House of Blues, 7PM

With support by Withered

 

Astrology | Transits

School for Esoteric Arts, 7PM

A lecture on reading transits in natal charts

 

Boston

Saenger Theatre, 8PM

Get ready for a giant sing along

 

Blato Zlato + Toonces

Siberia, 8PM

Balkan tunes + art-rock

 

Progression

Gasa Gasa, 9PM

Static Masks, Shame, Annette Peacock Tribute

 

MERCREDI

June 28th

Noontime Talk

NOMA, 12PM

Jim Steg: New Work, with Curator Russell Lord

 

Books Beer & Bookworm Babble

Urban South Brewery, 5PM

A fundraiser for Friends of New Orleans

 

Local Intro to Oils

Monkey Monkey, 6PM

Get the 411 on essential oils

 

Rye Tasting

Grande Krewe, 6PM

A flight of rye

 

Stick To Your Guns

Republic, 6PM

With support by Hawthorne Heights

 

Free Yogalates

The Mint, 6:30PM

Part of Wine Down Wednesdays

 

WNOE Summer Jam

House of Blues, 7PM

Jerrod Neimann with Michael Ray and more

 

Comedy Gold

House of Blues, 7PM

Stand up comedy from the Big Easy

 

Corks & Colors

NOLA Yoga Loft, 7:30PM

Let the paints and wine flow

 

Weird Wednesday’s

Bar Redux, 9PM

The Extra Terrestrial Edition

 

Mighty Brother

Saturn Bar, 10PM

With Grace Pettis

JEUDI

June 29th

Essence Festival

Superdome, 10AM

All your favorites in one place

 

Talkin’ Jazz

Jazz Museum, 2PM

With Tom Saunders

 

Ogden After Hours

The Ogden, 6PM

Featuring Andrew Duhon

 

Movie Screening

Carver Theater, 6PM

FunkJazz Kafé: Diary Of A Decade 

 

Bleed On

Glitter Box, 6PM

Fundraising for We Are #HappyPeriod, powered by Refinery29

 

Book Signing

TREO, 7PM

SHOT by Kathy Shorr

 

BYO #Scored

Music Box Village, 730

Presenting “Where I’m From”

 

JD Hill & The Jammers

Bar Redux, 8PM

Get ready to jam

 

Henry & The Invisibles

Hi Ho, 9PM

With support by Noisewater

 

Soundbytes Fest Edition

Three Keys, 9PM

With PJ Morton + Friends

 

Trance Farmers

Dragon’s Den, 10PM

Support by Yung vul

 

Push Push

Banks St Bar, 10PM

With Rathbone + Raspy

 

VENDREDI

June 30th

Electric Girls Demo Day

Monroe Hall at Loyola, 1:30PM

Check out the newest inventions

 

Field to Table Time

NOPL Youth Services, 2PM

Learn how growing + cooking = saving the world

 

Dinner & A ZOOvie

Audubon Park, 6PM

A showing of Trolls

 

Movie Night in The Garden

Hollygrove Market, 7PM

A showing of Sister Act

 

Songwriter Night

Mags, 9PM

Ft. Shannon Jae, Una Walkenhorst, Rory Sullivan

 

Alligator ChompChomp

The Circle Bar, 9:30PM

Ft. DJ Pasta and Matty N Mitch

 

Free Music Friday

Fulton Ally, 10PM

Featuring DJ Chris Jones

 

Spektrum

Techno Club, 10PM

Ft. CHKLTE + residents

 

The Longitude Event

Café Istanbul, 10PM

Presented by Urban Push Movement

 

Foundation Free Fridays

Tips, 10PM

Ft. Maggie Koerner & Travers Geoffray + Cha Wa

 

Gimme A Reason

Poor Boys Bar, 11PM

Ft. Tristan Dufrene + Bouffant Bouffant

 

SAMEDI

July 1st

SLOSHBALL

The Fly, 12PM

Hosted by Prytania Bar

 

Organic Bug Management

Hollygrove Market, 1PM

Learn about pests + organic management

 

Mystic Market

Rare Form NOLA, 2PM

Author talk, live music, art and more

 

Girls Rock New Orleans

Primary-Colton, 2:30PM

The official camper showcase

 

Serious Thing A Go Happen

Ace Hotel, 4PM

Exhibit viewing, artist talk, and after-sounds

 

Art NO(w)

Claire Elizabeth Gallery, 5PM

An eye popping opening reception

 

Antoine Diel Trio

Three Muses, 6PM

With Josh Paxton + Scott Johnson

 

CAIN Ressurection

Southport Music Hall, 9PM

Support by Overtone plus Akadia

 

Grits & Biscuits

House of Blues, 10PM

A Dirty South set

 

Jason Neville Band

BMC, 11PM

With Friends for Essence Fest

DIMANCHE

July 2nd

The Greatest Show On Earth

Prytania Theater, 10AM

Dramatic lives within a circus

 

THINK DEEP

The Drifter Hotel, 2PM

Ft. RYE, Lleauna, Tristen Dufrane

 

Night Market

Secondline Arts, 6PM

With Erica Lee

 

The Story of Stories

Académie Gnostique, 7PM

Learn about the practical magic of fairy tales

 

Silencio

One Eyed Jacks, 8PM

A tribute to David Lynch

 

Alex Bosworth

Bar Redux, 9PM

With Diako Diakoff

 

Church*

The Dragons’s Den, 10PM

SHANOOK, RUS, KIDD LOVE, ZANDER

 

International Flag Party

Howlin Wolf, 11:30PM

The hottest dance party of the year

 

New Creations Brass Band

Maple Leaf, 12AM

A special closing performance

 

Picture Fixture

Prytania Theatre Owner Rene Brunet on New Orleans' Lost Downtown Movie Theaters, Playing the Organ, and a Special Tie



Rene Brunet, owner of Uptown’s Prytania Theatre, is New Orleans’ most boyish 89-year-old. Since taking over the theater in 1992, Brunet has become a local institution, enthusiastically greeting moviegoers at the door with a smile, and one of his many movie-themed ties.

 

NoDef recently sat down with Brunet in his office for a wide-ranging conversation that touched on his lifelong love of movies, the era when New Orleans had nearly one hundred theaters, and the fate of movie theaters post-Katrina. His cramped office abutted the Prytania’s screening room, where a film was beginning as we sat down for the interview. Brunet, wearing a tan blazer and a tie featuring characters from Disney’s animated feature, “Hercules,” leaned back in his chair and spoke over the sound of the movie trailers.

 

NOLA Defender: How long have you been in the movie business?

 

Rene Brunet: Well, all I can tell you is, when I was born, in 1921, my father was running a motion picture theater. As a little kid, before I even had memory, I started going to the theater with my father and mother. I started doing things around the theater a little kid would do and grew up with the theater. And when I my father died in 1946, I took over the business.

 

NoDef: What theaters have you operated?

 

RB: I ran the theater my father built the year I was born - the Imperium in Mid-City. At that time, we also were taking over the Famous Theater [on the northern edge of the Marigny]. Shortly after that, the Circle, the Crown, the Claiborne, and the Joy downtown.

 

NoDef: When did you take over the Prytania?

 

RB: The Prytania is the (theater) that I have enjoyed the most because of what happened: a good friend, and my attorney at the time, he’d remarried and a friend of his wife needed someone to take over this neighborhood theater. So (his friend’s wife) said I know just the perfect man who knows how to run theaters in around 1992. I took over the running the theater and have been doing it ever since.

 

NoDef: You’re the last independently owned theater, right?

 

RB: Last of the independent single-screen theaters and the last single-screen theater in the city of New Orleans, and probably (the last of either) in the state of Louisiana. Things aren’t looking up for others, either. Yesterday, I received info that remodeling work on Saenger Theater has come to a halt. My sources tell me that financing fell through (Editor’s Note: Mayor Mitch approved financing this week so the project could move forward). The Saenger, when it opened in 1927, had 3,700 seats. Both a movie theater and a stage theater.  It remained a movie theater until single- screen theaters on Canal St. started closing. When Katrina struck, it suffered a devastating flood. Water was 15 feet deep, so for functional purposes, it was done.

 

NoDef: Was Katrina the final blow to the single-screen theaters?

 

RB: I’m amazed, a local artist sent this to me, just the other day. I guess when you’re in business long enough, your name gets out.

 

[Brunet picked up from his desk a framed picture of the Joy Theater’s deteriorating sign]

 

This makes me very sad because it was a beautiful sign. I operated that theater until 2003. The company I was operating was Delta Theatres, which leased the land and built the theater in 1948. We had a fifty year lease on the ground. The lease expired in 1998, and we couldn’t renew the lease. The people wouldn’t finance it, and sold the lease. It wasn’t prudent for me to remodel because the lease wasn’t renewed. That’s the story of the Joy Theater right now.

 

When Katrina hit simultaneously, the Lowe’s, the Joy, and the Orpheum were all flooded. Seriously flooded. All had big basements, and all had twelve to twenty feet of water.

 

NoDef: How did the storm affect you?

 

RB: We lived in Lakeview. We lost just about everything. My dearest possession: I played the organ. I used to play the pipe organ at the Saenger. Beautiful instrument.  I had a very nice electronic organ in my home. Playing the organ was my greatest source of relaxation after a stressful day.

 

But the organ I’d want to replace the one I lost, costs $25,000. I would love to have it. The organ is a versatile instrument. There are so many things you can do with it. As matter of fact, the one at the Sanger, it had just about everything on it: xylophone, bass drum. The organist had to accompany music in the appropriate moods. A western had horses galloping across the screen, and the organist tried to duplicate on the organ.

 

NoDef: Did you play the organ during films?

 

RB: Oh jeez, I started when I was about 14 years old. It was a hobby, not a job. I played the organ for a while – I hate to say professionally – but whenever a show came to town, I volunteered, because I liked it. Playing in the Sanger at night after the show, practicing in this great big theater, 4,000 seats, was like a scene out of a horror picture [laughs].

 

NoDef: How has the industry changed since you began?

 

RB: Something people don’t realize is that major studios were making a movie a week. 52 movies a year. All four theaters downtown were affiliated with a studio – MGM, Paramount, Columbia, Fox – and each theater would show a new picture from its studio every week. If you were a movie buff like me, you’d see all 52.

 

NoDef: Were more people going to the theater back then?

 

RB: Oh yes. The peak years for going to the movie theaters were the Depression years. Back then, after films were shown downtown for a week, the neighborhood theaters would pick them up. There were 75 to 80 theaters in New Orleans at one time. There was simply a greater supply of quality movies.

 

NoDef: Why has the business changed so drastically in the past 60 years?

 

RB: The government brought antitrust legislation against the major studios in the 40s. Originally, theater owners had invested in Hollywood, so the same companies owning theaters made the movies. You had a massive, efficient organization that could keep costs low across the board. It was easy to make 52 pictures a year financially. But when the production companies no longer owned the theaters, it was impossible to do that. Now a major studio might release 20 in a year.

 

NoDef: Do you see the Prytania as a throwback to that time?

 

RB: The wonderful thing about the neighborhood theater was that no matter where you lived, there was a theater within walking distance of home. At the Prytania, there’s no parking lot. People ask how can you not have a parking lot? The customers either walk, or they park on the street.

 

NoDef: So there’s an environmental reason?

 

RB: The problem with theaters now is that you have drive forever to get there. With our dependence on gas, it just makes things worse.

 

But also, at one time, the theater was a cultural center. You met your friends at the local neighborhood theaters growing up. That was the greatest punishment parents had: you did something to displease your parents, they wouldn’t let you go to the picture on the weekend.

 

NoDef: This happened to you, I take it?

 

RB: Maybe. A joke: a cheapskate tells his date he’ll meet her Saturday night -- at the concession stand. That way he doesn’t have to pay her way.

 

NoDef: Do you have any favorite movies?

 

RB: So many, so many. One is “Gone with the Wind.” “Casablanca,” a great movie. “Casablanca” dates back to the early 40s. “Sound of Music,” always a favorite, the music in it is so great. A Hitchcock I like is “North by Northwest.” When it comes to favorite movies, you almost have to branch off into what kind of movie.

 

NoDef: How many ties do you have?

 

RB: Oh, I don’t know, let’s say a hundred. My daughter had a custom tie made for me, that plays the [sings] “let’s all go the lobby” (jingle) when you touch it.

 

NoDef: Will the multiplexes crowd out the Prytania like they did the rest of the neighborhood theaters?

 

RB: No. Not as long as I have any say in it.

 

Rene Brunet introduces the films of the Prytania Theatre’s classic movie series. Films in the weekly series play Sunday and Wednesday at noon.

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Contributors

Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde

Photographers


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.

Editor

Alexis Manrodt

Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

B. E. Mintz

Editor Emeritus

Stephen Babcock

Published Daily