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Grindhouse Theater continues to thrill patrons

Mastermind Justin Giallo brings cult classics to the big screen

GRINDHOUSE: The Grand Cinema’s Grindhouse Theater creator Justin Giallo, left, gets into character with the creator of Phantasm, Don Coscarelli. Courtesy photo

What's better than a gritty classic gore, horror or exploitation movie projected on the big screen in original 35mm film?

According to Justin Giallo and his growing number of Grindhouse Theater fans, nothing.

"I feel that cinema - in a sense - is dying and becoming careless," says Giallo, who refuses to screen anything that's not filmed in 35mm.

Giallo is the brainchild and projectionist behind The Grand Cinema's Grindhouse Theater Film Series and has been making fans of the niche genre happy since July, when his first of the series, Evil Dead, sold-out both shows.

"They are the highest grossing sales on the weekends," Giallo says.

Since July, monthly cinema events have taken place, including screenings of Demons and Return of the Living Dead, which sold out as well. Many people travel from Portland and Seattle for the shows.

Not only does the cinema present showings of cult classics, Giallo finds it impossible not to turn the productions into a unique and memorable experience with audience participation, prize giveaways or even surprise appearances - sometimes by Skype, other times in person - by a member of the cast or creative team.

"I'm really on par with P.T. Barnum," Giallo says. "You've got to bring a gimmick."

Giallo tells me during the showing of Demons, he gave everyone a gold ticket, which is in reference to the premise of the movie - a group of people are trapped in a large movie theater that is infected by ravenous demons who proceed to kill and posses the humans one by one, thereby multiplying their numbers - and of course, the tickets in the movie were gold.

"Everyone thought it was the coolest," he says.

Giallo has an eye for cool. He's been a projectionist at Grand Cinema for seven years, and before that, worked at Stadium Video for 10 years, until its time of closing. He was even on the cover of The News Tribune as the go-to guy for rare horror, cult and exploitive films.

Giallo's not stopping anytime soon - he's got 1,000s of items in his personal media collection, and for the cinema series, he has access to hundreds.

This Friday and Saturday night at 9 p.m., Grindhouse Theater presents Phantasm, a 1979 cult classicby Don Coscarelli, about the Tall Man, a supernatural and malevolent undertaker who turns the dead into dwarf zombies to do his bidding and take over the world.

This screening features a costume contest, trivia and free raffle with prizes and giveaways from awesome sponsors, plus movie shorts, trailers and vintage spooky cartoons. First place and runner up for the costume contest both nights win VIP & weekend pass to Crypticon Seattle 2013.

In November, Giallo plans to show Cannibal Ferox (1981) and in December, Silent Night Deadly Night (1984). Both months will include a food/toy drive and of course, both screenings will be shown on 35mm film. 

[The Grand Cinema, Grindhouse Theater, Friday, Oct. 26-Saturday, Oct. 27, 9 p.m., $4.50-$9, 606 S. Fawcett, Tacoma, 253.593.4474]

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