Andrea Beesley is an important person in Phoenix, AZ. If you’ve heard stories of a weird movie that you feel like you have to see, chances are Andrea is working on getting it shown somewhere. I’ve been lucky enough to see many of her screening for films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre (with Marilyn Burns in attendance), Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and The Room… hundreds of times, it feels like I’ve seen the room.
She was gracious enough to answer 10 questions for me.
You’ve been showing movies for a while now. What was the first movie you ever showed in a theater? That is to say, what is the first screening that you ever booked?
Oh man, this is going back a bit. But the first movie I ever showed was Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! that was at the Paper Heart Arts Venue. The first movies in a theater were a double feature in 35mm of Candy Snatchers & Blood Freak, with prints graciously loaned from the Alamo Drafthouse.
Can you remember the first movie you ever saw as a kid? I’m not sure what the first movie I ever actually saw was, but the first movie that I can remember watching is Beetlejuice and it scared the shit out of me. It never even occurred to me at any point that it was a comedy. What’s yours?
Love the Beetlejuice anecdote; I honestly don’t think I saw that film until I was in my late teens. Hmmm as far as the first movie, I remember seeing the re-release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in a theater in Auckland, New Zealand (where I’m from). Other early memories are of the PufnStuf movie and Star Wars.
You’ve seen lots of horror movies. Is there any one movie that you can recall that really fucked you up?
I would have to say it’s a tossup between Martyrs & A Serbian Film. I despised Martyrs, seriously hated it. I thought it was so misogynistic and unnecessary, a pure exploitation film. I still can’t see the merit in it. A Serbian Film I saw as part of the Midnight program at SXSW, so we were bleary-eyed and seeing that film, which is beautifully shot with fantastic sound/editing but completely disturbing and grotesque story and imagery, was a seriously fucked up experience. However, getting to meet and hang out with the filmmakers, and see them Karaoke to Rasputin by Boney M has since helped me deal with the trauma (ha ha). Now that I’m a parent I don’t think I could ever watch A Serbian Film again, too devastating.
Of all the screenings you’ve put on, is there one that stands out in your memory as being a “best-ever”? Something that stands out as a high-water mark for all the movies you’ve given audiences to see over the years.
I’ve been so fortunate to meet and work with a lot of my cult idols. I think my best-ever was probably my first-ever. The screening of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! at the Paper Heart with Tura Satana and Haji was such an amazing experience. I remember the first time that I saw Tura in person; it was at a book signing event in Palm Springs. I almost went weak at the knees and got misty; it was so awesome to see her in the flesh. So having her out at my event and being able to share a film that has been such a huge influence in my life with 300 other people was just a blast. We sold out the place, it was chaos, but it all came together.
There have been fantastic Q&A’s you conducted with filmmakers, such as Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero of The Room and James Nguyen of Birdemic. Who was your favorite?
Wow this is a tough one, haha. Greg Sestero is an absolute doll, sweet, kind and really down to earth, a total pleasure to work with. Tommy on the other hand, is the money guy. He is very controlling of everything to do with The Room, even the actors. He is great with the fans and puts on a real show, but there is an underlying unease with him. The story that perfectly sums up Tommy happened after the show, it’s about 2 or 3 am, everyone’s exhausted and giddy. We take Tommy and Greg to Denny’s. Tommy is talking about ordering a salad, but then asks, “Who is paying” (but imagine that in his accent). When he finds out that I’m paying for the meal, he then decides to order a steak. Now granted, a steak at Denny’s isn’t pricey, but it’s the priciest thing on the menu. That’s Tommy for you. When we had James Nguyen out for Birdemic, it was early in its popularity, so he hadn’t had a chance to evolve to that status where he had embraced the film in a way that recognizes its shortcomings. So he was very sincere. Our audience was merciless, they heckled it pretty relentlessly, and I just had to keep sneaking him beers as he sat in the back of the theater. He did a great Q&A but he at times seemed on the verge of tears. I don’t if that was the booze or emotion, it was kind of sad either way.
Are there any movies that you wanted to show, but for whatever reason you just never had the chance?
I’d love to show Fantastic Planet. I think it would be a total trip to see that on the big screen. I’ve shown my top 5 favorite horror films (The Beyond, Black Christmas, April Fool’s Day, The Hills Have Eyes 2 & Pieces) and countless other Grindhouse gems. If anything some more Dario Argento stuff would be great. I’ve never screened Tenebre and to have that blasted with the amazing Goblin soundtrack would be a treat! Also Meatballs, I’m really fond of that film!
There are tons of amazing movie theaters out there. In the Phoenix area, that I know of, you’ve gone from Chandler to Tempe’s MADCAP theater, your own theater in Mesa for a spell (The Royale) and now FilmBar in downtown Phoenix. Aside from that, there are historical theaters like the Egyptian in Hollywood and nostalgic childhood favorites. What movie theater is your absolute favorite in the world?
Ah it’s too hard to narrow down… but my first up would be the St. James Theatre in Auckland, NZ. It’s now defunct (although they are trying to save it), but it’s glorious. Built in 1928, three-tiered with amazing frescos and ornate details everywhere, I remember seeing exploitation films there in the 90s and it was such an amazing experience. Next would be the rooftop Cinema in Athens Greece, Cine Paris. With views of the Acropolis, beer & wine, it’s pretty much perfect. I saw two movies there and fell in love. I also am extremely fond of the New Beverly Cinema in LA along with Cinefamily, The Loft in Tucson and the Alamo Drafthouse (Ritz). If I were rich and could just travel whenever I want, I would just visit these theaters continuously!
Who is your favorite working director today? When you hear that they have a new project in production, you get unbelievably excited.
Quentin Tarantino. He’s pretty much the only one that I’m always excited to see what he has coming next.
Are there any screenings planned that you’re looking forward to?
We have Some Like it Hot coming up at FilmBar, which I’ve never seen on a big screen and will be a real hoot, so I’m looking forward to that. I just saw The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 40th Anniversary screening, and it was glorious. Seeing that movie and hearing it all cleaned up was stunning, it’s such an amazing film. The cinematography and sound editing is amazing. Plus Marilyn Burns is a fucking champ!
Let’s say you’re stranded on a desert isle, which has working electricity for some reason, a working TV and a DVD/Blu-Ray player (because it’s a weird, hypothetical scenario), what one movie would you choose to accompany you?
Pieces. I don’t know why I’m so fond of this movie. Maybe it’s the campy dubbing, the T&A, the waterbed scene, the random ninja…or the Day-George’s? I don’t know, but I can never get enough!