“My mother is in that first scene, and I just had to see how it looks,” he gushed.
The writer-director of the Focus Features release came out to the opening of AMC’s Century City 15 to introduce Boogie to a sold-out (at 25% capacity) 7 p.m. crowd. With Los Angeles County and the state recently easing Covid restrictions and permitting the reopening of indoor movie theaters after a year of shutdown, Century City reps one of AMC’s two multiplexes reopening tonight in addition to its Burbank site. The No. 1 exhibition chain will be opening more venues this coming weekend, including the Universal CityWalk AMC.
“It means a lot to me that you came to watch this film today,” Huang said to the hoots and hollers of moviegoers in Auditorium 11.
“I did an intro at a drive-in, but it’s not the same,” Huang told Deadline tonight. “My heart is racing watching this in a theater; this is really cool.”
He added: “I did an intro for 200 cars at a drive-in, but it doesn’t look the same. It was funny because I was so grateful that Focus allowed me to have a premiere [in L.A.], but I sat in my car and 45 seconds in, I just turned it off, because the sound at a drive-in isn’t synced to the film. I couldn’t watch it. So, I turned it off and ate popcorn and Sour Patch Kids.”
Huang shot Boogie in 26 days in September 2019 in Flushing, NY and downtown NYC. Focus became attached to the project in November 2017.
How did the filmmaker feel about having his movie released at such an uneven time for exhibition during Covid? With NYC recently reopened, and L.A. this coming weekend, we’re still just slightly north of 50% of all U.S. and Canadian cinemas operating.
“I picked the date because I had a feeling about this month,” Huang told us.
“[Focus] gave us options for dates, and I said, ‘I want March 5.’ There was a point where they wanted to move it back because there was a good response to the trailer, but I said, ‘No, I really think this film is coming at the perfect time. We’re coming out of the pandemic and I wanted to be one of the first films back.’
“I don’t think of things from a money perspective, but I do believe our film is going to get people back to theaters,” Huang continued, “It’s not a huge blockbuster, but it’s a unique film of its kind.”
Boogie tells the coming-of-age story of Alfred “Boogie” Chin (Taylor Takahashi), a basketball phenom living in Queens, New York, who dreams of one day playing in the NBA. While his parents pressure him to focus on earning a scholarship to an elite college, Boogie must find a way to navigate a new girlfriend, high school, on-court rivals and the burden of expectation. Taylour Paige and the late Pop Smoke also star. Through two weekends, Boogie has grossed $2.3M.
Next up, Huang is working on the HBO animated series Chinos, which we first told you about, and he’s sending out a new screenplay, set in LA, entitled Tuna Melt to studios.
And how was foot traffic tonight at the AMC Century City 15?
Remember, it’s a Monday night in Los Angeles. So, there aren’t throngs of people dressed up in Marvel costumes or lines out the door. But with 7PM and 8PM showtimes (there aren’t any 9PMs with hours temporarily curbed) of Chaos Walking, Boogie and Raya and the Last Dragon sold out, it’s clear people want to come back to the movies. The lobby had an enormous floor to ceiling digital screen promoting Disney’s Cruella and 6-time Oscar nominee Nomadland, as well as a huge standee of Paramount’s A Quiet Place II with posters of Universal’s upcoming action pic Nobody and Focus Features’ Oscar nominated Promising Young Woman.
And how great is it to see trailers on a booming huge screen, i.e. Cruella, Universal’s Nobody and A24’s The Green Knight (which looks amazing on the big screen, in that signature offbeat A24 way like Midsommar)? It’s a reminder that what cinemas have to offer is exclusive, and when it is exclusive, there’s no reason to sit at home.
The staff here at the Century City 15 had a short turnaround to get the theater reopened, but from the looks between ticket service and concessions, they worked like a well-oiled machine, showing no signs that they had been away for a year’s time. The AMC Century 15 was very clean, moviegoers well distanced and masked; overall a comfortable place to enjoy a movie.
And talk about perfect timing: Who would have guessed that the day LA movie theaters return would be Oscar nomination day?