Friday, May 8, 2009

White House's Fire Engine Red Hot Room

(East Wing's Movie Theater, Interior Design Blasingame for Laura Bush photo Architectural Digest)
Bold. Daring. SCREAMING RED!!! That was the overwhelming effect Austin, Texas Interior Designer Kenneth Blasingame was aiming for to perk up the room used for a few R-rated performances in the White House to compete with that other Red Room. It is a bit of a throwback to the sophisticated plush movie theaters of yesteryear replete with the gilt accents and fluted woodwork. Each room in the White House complex has a purpose of either or both being the omnipresent political and the tactical practical. High end homes in America feature robust media rooms with large screens and serious lounging chairs with surround sound. The White House has had a movie Family Theater since FDR converted a cloakroom. For decades it had the feel of a chintz filled living room even after President & Mrs. Reagan had the elevated stadium style seats brought in for their much lighter more floral rendition of the movie theater. The film screening history of the First Movie Theater is captured in green ledger books detailing what films presidents watched. Its fascinating!

An invite to Movie Night at the White House is special because there are less than 40 cushy seats. If the president attends, everybody wants a seat and a little bag of popcorn. The first four chairs down front are resplendent with matching back pillows, pleated skirts and footstools embellished with brass nailhead trim. All the other seats are similar to a local upscale local theater minus the dubious cupholders. Located in the East Colonnade section,the movie theater opens with double doors that lead in/out from the hall that overlooks the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden.

East View facing the projectionist - photo courtesy Architectural Digest
One of the presidential perks is the ability to order any film or movie, even the ones that are top secret and not released yet, and premier it at the White House. The Obamas used the room to turn it into a giant TV screen for watching the SuperBowl with a bi-partisan audience. After a frigid day watching their father become president,the official opening of the Obama White House Movie Theater happened a week earlier when Malia & Sasha and assorted guests, enjoyed High School Musical 3 and Bolt. Chelsea Clinton had a little bit of a Freaky Friday disaster when her tween and teen guests spilled popcorn and whatnots early on in her days in the White House and the residence staff watched helplessly as steel magnolia Hillary made her clean up the mess. President Clinton enjoyed a superbowl party as well right after his inaugural in 1993.
Governor Richardson, Chelsea & Socks, President Clinton, Governor Cuomo -AP
The other use of the room is serious presidential business. It is set up with the presidential podium and teleprompters for past presidents to work out the kinks in their State of the Union Address. The first row of chairs is removed and staff sits in the seats to critique the style and delivery of the address. It is the one serious surefire annual foray of West Wingers into the East Wing preserve because there is no other room that fills the purpose in the West Wing. The movie theater is not a room that has the stringent requirements of a Room of State in the executive mansion, allowing for extensive refurbishing according to taste and function. Woodrow Wilson screening the abominable and racist Birth of a Nation at the White House is among the most offensive acts a president has done since the dawn of the movie age. (Family Theater prior to its reworking in Red as President Bush practices in 2003 WH Photo)

The Obamas have watched Oscar nominated films such as The Wrestler, Slumdog Millionaire as their more notable current choices. No doubt, a new Star Trek appearance for the Comic Book Collector in Chief inside the White House Family Theater. Michelle and her girlfriends with a few close staffers enjoyed He's Just Not That Into You. The beauty is the favorites are usually seen by first families more than once and often at both the White House and Camp David
President Obama serves cookies at Superbowl Party
3D Super Bowl Fashion in First Theater - can you spot the Attorney General? Photo Pete Souza


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