Judge Not

The Dallas Observer spent the better part of a week calling state District Judge Margaret Keliher to ask her why she hadn't resigned from the bench five months ago when she started running for county judge. The state "judicial canon of ethics" says judges have to quit if they run for a "contested nonjudicial" office, and most everybody agrees county judge is a nonjudicial post in Dallas County.

Keliher had two different public relations companies call the Observer to find out what the story was about ("Judge Fudge," May 9). The Rob Allyn Agency launched into a big legal defense of her decision not to quit based on the Texas Constitution and other hoo-hah, but she herself never called. And the main thing the Allyn Agency seemed interested in was exactly when the story was going to run.

The next day, even as the Observer was hitting the streets, Keliher held a news conference in which she said she's stepping down from the bench. For the Observer, it's a mixed experience, sort of like you're still baiting your hook and the fish jumps in the boat to surrender. One feels that a certain pleasurable ritual has been lost--the cast, the seductive retrieve, the moment when that sucker strikes and then fights vainly to get free. This isn't supposed to be picking up shrimp at Tom Thumb.

Keliher did offer one bit of colorful resistance. She tried to say the purpose of her news conference was to announce her campaign kickoff. Ummm, that's pretty good, Judge, but you had already been campaigning for five months, you had raised a couple of hundred grand and you had already won the Republican primary. Otherwise, terrific attempt at evasion.

Next time we think we may have a good Keliher story going, we'll just put the word out on the street that she can save herself a lot of trouble by coming down to the office and handing us her confession. And we'll need an 8-by-10 glossy black and white with that, preferably doing something candid. For a change.

May the farce be with you: In 1999, George Lucas vowed to theater owners he wouldn't give them Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones unless they poured money and manpower into refitting their auditoriums with digital projectors. He shot the film in high-definition digital, and that's how he wanted it projected--clear as crystal, loud as a bomb (which is a pretty apt description, critically speaking, of the last Star Wars movie). Turns out, he was only joking. When the film opens Thursday, it will do so on some 5,800 screens, only 60 of which are equipped to project the movie as Lucas intended, primarily because theater owners have yet to make the leap.

Locally, there are only two theaters outfitted with Texas Instruments' Digital Light Processing (DLP) Cinema technology: the Cinemark at Legacy Theatre in Plano and the Magnolia Theater in the West Village. The Cinemark will screen Attack of the Clones, but the Magnolia has been shut out despite TI's best efforts.

TI and the Magnolia were informed by 20th Century Fox, which is distributing the movie for Lucasfilm, that Episode II will open instead at the nearby 14-screen Loews Cityplace, which can guarantee Star Wars four auditoriums for several weeks and "churn out money for Fox," says Tearlach Hutcheson, who runs the five-screen Magnolia Theater. (The Cityplace has been screening Spider-Man in five auditoriums.)

The politics of movie distribution, which dictate that those with the most screens nationally get their pick of the pics, are aligned with the Dark Side. Loews has nearly 300 locations internationally, nine of which have digital projectors; the Magnolia, only the one.

"So when it comes to getting product, we have a much harder time," Hutcheson says. "And the public suffers, because may I be so bold to say we have a better theater than Cityplace, and we have a nicer projector."

As late as Tuesday, TI's Brooke Williams, one of the DLP managers, was trying to convince Lucasfilm and Fox to change their minds.

"It's disappointing," Williams says. "Clearly, we want to have every screen available to book Episode II, but we have very little control over the booking process," Williams says. "It's really not our place to get in the middle of exhibitors and the studios, but we know the right people to talk to and have done so, and it's their decision."

There's always the Jedi mind trick.

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams

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