Saturday, May 20, 2017

We Walk into a Silent Movie (in a bar)

Full Circle Brewing Company, Fresno
The ringmaster didn’t promote beer. He brought out the bag of popcorn to juggle itself, the bun that trained the hot dog and the dancing drinks. But none of the circus acts featured beer or tacos.

Perhaps you’ve seen the snack bar promotional movie that provides a ten minute countdown between features at drive-ins? This time, it provided intermission entertainment during Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger at Full Circle Brewing Company in Fresno. The Lodger was one of three silent films at Full Circle during May; The Battleship Potemkin was shown the previous week, and The Man Who Laughs is scheduled next week.

Though The Lodger is only an hour and ten minutes long, there was an intermission. And even though that “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” commercial said nothing about beer, people seemed to find their way to the bar to buy their beers, ales, and custom brews made on the property. Outside, a man had set up a taco stand. But as I said, that intermission promo had popcorn, hot drinks, candy, and soft drinks, but none of it was sold there at the brewery. (Okay, there is one soft drink available at the bar, root beer, but that’s it.)

We were attracted to the place by the movie. I’ve been a Hitchcock fan from way back, and this film was the first thriller that brought the director to prominence. It also just so happens that at one of our other blogs, Movie Churches, we’re watching silent movies this month -- so Full Circle was definitely the place to be.

When we entered the brewery, cartoons were already playing on the screen: “Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land” to be specific (followed by several Warner Brothers cartoons). We sat at the bar, and I ordered a Cluster Fuggle Cream Ale. Mindy ordered a Bush League Barley Wine. Mindy had asked about the mead listed on the website, but the bartender said they didn’t have any.

We sat and sipped (you may recall, we aren't beer fans) while several people with bicycles came in, ordered, drank, and left. Then Cathy and Chelsea sat next to Mindy. We asked them the questions we always ask, “What makes for a good bar?” and “Whether you go or not, what would make for a good church?”

Cathy was closest, and she first took the question about what makes for a good bar. “The environment. If it looks and feels comfy and cozy and the people who pour your beers are friendly, that’s number one for what makes a good bar.”

Chelsea added, “Good drinks or beer. They have to have not too many people around. Not too crowded. They should have plenty of places to sit.”

They also talked about the importance of good music (“kind of like church, if there’s no good music…” Cathy said.) There wasn’t music playing at the time, though, because the cartoons were on the movie screen, and TVs at low volume were playing the first game of the Cavaliers and Celtics series.)

They talked about liking the atmosphere of Full Circle, with cozy urban feel of brick and wood. Along with the brick and wood, there are kitschy decorations, some reminiscent of other places we’ve been recently. There was a skeleton as there was at Goldstein’s and Ms. Pacman as there was at Spokeasy. And there were twinkle lights strung overhead, adding to the cozy vibe.

As for what makes for a good church, Cathy said, “First, welcoming. How is it when you first come in?” She said later that she thinks “people should be friendly, but not like makeup counter employees.”

And, she said, “I don’t like it all flashy and showy.”  She went to a church recently that had a fog machine. That was just too much. She also thinks about  the pastor. “Is he funny, engaging?” But more important was the pastor’s (and by extension, the church’s) theology. “Do I agree with it or not?” She doesn’t like pastors asking for money. “I’m just a poor college student.”

Cathy also said she looks for people her age, but “that’s not make or break.”

Chelsea said, “They should keep the message on God, not ‘please give so we can build a big building.’” She thinks that it’s okay to keep the property up and pay pastors and staff reasonably, but a good part of a church’s income should go to helping the community and to missions. Both agreed that a church’s money shouldn’t go to fancy decor. “Like taxes, I don’t want my money going to what I don’t want it to go to.” She said she thinks it’d be good if a couple times a month, a church would do projects in the community.

baby Hitchcock
But our conversation ended with an an announcement by Nate Butler, the sponsor of the event, that the film was beginning. Before the film proper began, he’d put together excerpts from a documentary about Hitchcock. He also played the piano to accompany the film (as frequently happens when silent films are shown publicly). His score included bits from a variety of sources; we noticed Cabaret, Fiddler on the Roof, The Wizard of Oz, Pink Floyd, and the Eurythmics along with a snippet of “Putting on the Ritz” as well as “Hushaby Mountain” from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

During the intermission, as the screen played the ten minute snack bar countdown, Mindy asked Jeff the bartender our two questions. (We’d talked to Jeff before the movie, and he’d given us a bit of the history of Full Circle. New owners took over in August, and that’s when he began working behind the bar. The previous owners, we heard, had treated the company more like a hobby, keeping sporadic hours. The new owners treat the brewery as a business.)

Jeff said, “To me, what makes a good bar is the service. The glass should never be empty. Nobody should have to wait. It should have a clean, happy environment. Patrons should feel comfortable and welcome.”

not Jeff at Full Circle Brewing Company in Fresno
Several customers came to the bar then, so he helped them while thinking about the church question. While pulling a beer, he looked over his shoulder and said, “Know what the answer to number three [the church question] is?  Same as for number two! I see the two places as very similar.”

Like Jeff, we see many similarities between bars and churches, and enjoy both. We also love movie theaters, so when that’s added to the mix as well, we’re happy campers.

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