Fruitcake and free popcorn

by Mark Burger

As a lifelong film fan, I find it heartening that there are so many up-and-coming filmmakers in the Piedmont Triad. I can’t make ’em, but I sure love writing about ’em. Besides, I’ve got to write about something.

The region has been percolating with cinematic creativity the last several years, and we’ve got the films, festivals and contests to prove it.

Next up is the Fruitcake Film Festival, making its return engagement to the area. It’s been three years since the last (and the first) Fruitcake Festival in the area, which was presented by the Greensboro-based Triad Indie Film Network (TIFN) and which boasted a series of 10-, 60- and 180-second short films, many of them made by first-time filmmakers.

Well, it’s back. To enter is free. To attend is free. The big screening event will be Dec. 20 at Open Space Café Theatre (4609 W. Market St., Greensboro). The clock is ticking. You’ve got less than 30 days to make a movie… any movie!

The catchphrase for this year’s festival is “Everybody’s a filmmaker.”

(Funny, but I always thought the adage was, “Everybody’s a critic.”)

Whether you’re a first-timer, a teenager, a family of film fanatics, a student or even an experienced filmmaker, this is the festival for you. You want to make a movie? Go to it!

For a complete list of details, rules and regulations, see

There, you can download the official festival flyer, watch previous Fruitcake films, and get a better idea of just how fruity, flaky and funky your film ought to be. Unlike the majority of big-budget Hollywood movies, low-tech is encouraged – but be careful about being “lowbrow.” Let’s leave the gore and profanity to an absolute minimum, shall we?

There will be prizes for the films selected the best of the festival. Just because making a movie is hard work doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, too!


Having had great success with the Grand 18 in Winston-Salem – located not far from the luxurious and demented accommodations of Chez Burger, as a matter of fact – Southern Theaters has done it again.

Last week marked the opening of the Grand Theatre Four Seasons Station 18 in Greensboro. Located a stone’s throw from the Koury Convention Center, here are 18 state-of-the-art theaters – the multiplex’s multiplex.

Several hundred hearty souls braved the night chill to enjoy complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres, as well as free popcorn and fountain drinks. The Icees do not count as fountain drinks, darn it, so I had to settle for a Sprite. (I decided to take the night off from stronger spirits.)

After the initial festivities and a series of speeches from local dignitaries and representatives from Southern Theatres, guests were invited to check out one of the movies playing at the theater for free. Having just seen Beowulf the night before, and having little interest in either Lions for Lambs or (gulp!) Fred Claus, I decided to take the high(brow) road and see Mike Newell’s adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s best-seller Love in the Time of Cholera. (You put the name of a fatal disease in the title of a movie, and I am there!)

There’s a certain smell to a brand new theater, one that lasts only until the pervasive aroma of popcorn takes over. I speak from experience. More than 20 years ago I worked at the Rutgers Plaza Cinema 6 in Somerset, NJ. (Don’t look for it; it isn’t there anymore). It was my first job. I was 16 years old, a mere babe in the woods.

How fondly I remember trying, at that age, to defend Brian De Palma’s Body Double from the dozens of people who loudly lambasted it as they stormed out midway through. I used every excuse in the book – that they should have known what sort of cinematic mischief De Palma would be up to, that the film was clearly rated R in the advertising, and of course that I didn’t make it, so why be angry with me?

I wasn’t even old enough to see the damned thing! But of course I did, still wearing my ridiculous powder-blue tuxedo with the clip-on bowtie.

I loved Body Double and I still do. I think it’s very funny. But, of course, I have a very twisted sense of humor. I also loved CHUD, which apparently is being remade just like everything else these days.

But I digress… as usual.