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Stanley Cup bystander

Not into hockey? There were other things to do during playoffs
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Martha Plimpton, left, Stephen Colbert and Neil Patrick Harris in the Broadway musical Company that was filmed and screened at Cineplex theatres across the country, including Victoria's.

Until those boozeaddled hooligans ruined everything by giving Vancouver a black eye when the Bruins clobbered the Canucks in Game 7, turning its downtown into what looked like a post-apocalyptic war zone in a zombie movie, even those of us who could care less about the Stanley Cup had to admit the playoffs at least provided a unifying diversion.

With the inescapable din of honking horns and cheers or eerie silence in the streets, you always knew the score, like it or not.

The best thing about the playoffs was that if you wanted to see a movie on the big screen under optimal conditions - relatively free of texting teens, seat-kicking loudmouths and other annoyances - it was do-able on game nights.

Indeed, there was no better time to visit the multiplex, or catch up on shopping at Costco without the long lineups.

"The hockey playoffs were a boon for the bar business and a disaster for the theatre business," declared Pierre Gauthier, manager of the Odeon. "For the last seven games nobody wanted to see a movie, and a lot of staff wanted time off."

It was a different story at Sidney's Star Cinema, where six of the final seven games were broadcast. Co-owner/operator Sandy Oliver said the games attracted viewers who don't have big screens or wanted company.

"People stayed away when we weren't playing it," she said. "We did better on weekdays when we had it here."

No sooner had the Stanley Cup distraction reached its ugly climax than business bounced back at the Odeon, noted Gauthier, who was nonplussed by crowds who returned for the opening of Midnight in Paris - a Woody Allen movie - two days later.

"I didn't expect it to be that busy," he admitted. "People just love it."

Kyle Moffat, Cineplex Entertainment director of communications, put it another way: "People are returning to their regularly scheduled programming."

While the NHL would have us believe the entire nation was obsessed with the playoffs, I learned I was far from alone in seeking cinematic refuge from Stanley Cup overkill.

True, I might have been more desperate than some non-participants. Take June 13, for instance, when I fled to SilverCity to escape Game 6 by watching X-Men: First Class, a terrific prequel that lives up to its name, incidentally. Alas, the 6: 30 show was pre-empted by the encore presentation of The Metropolitan Opera's Le Comte Ory.

In retrospect, Game 6 might have been more entertaining than the film I saw instead, only because it was in the next time slot: Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, an allegedly wacky comedy about a headstrong girl's attempts to have a great summer with her brother and eccentric aunt.

If you were there, you'd have seen a grown man cry.

It was far from the "Supermegatotally Thrilladelic" experience suggested in the ads. (In fairness, it was made for tweens, not middle-agers.)

Two nights later, as excited as a Canucks fan anticipating a hometown win after I learned a production of Company was being broadcast that night as part of Cineplex's Front Row Centre series, it was off to the Odeon to avoid Game 7.

For a Stephen Sondheim enthusiast, seeing the New York Philharmonic's all-star staged concert version of his seminal 1970 musical about perennial bachelor Bobby and the five couples in his orbit was showbiz heaven.

Clearly, the enthusiastic crowd - many clapping along with theatregoers at New York's Avery Fisher Hall - were as mesmerized watching such A-listers as Neil Patrick Harris, Patti LuPone, Martha Plimpton, Two And a Half Men's Jon Cryer, Mad Men's Christina Hendricks and an almost unrecognizable singing and dancing Stephen Colbert creating Broadway magic.

And, mercifully, not once was it interrupted by a hockey update.

It should have come as no surprise that Intrepid Theatre artistic director and playwright Janet Munsil was there. Why?

"It was the opposite of watching a hockey game," said Munsil. "Hockey just is not interesting to me. I've never watched a hockey game but I've seen many Broadway musicals."

The Sondheim fan said she attends as many filmed plays, operas and other cultural events as possible.

"It's a great way to be able to see them, and Company certainly isn't coming to the Fringe Festival," she said with a laugh.

While people clapping at a movie screen might seem weird, Munsil said such responses help you connect.

"With these filmed stage performances you're playing a different role than when you're seeing a movie," she said, adding she was surprised there were as many people in the audience for the event to be repeated July 9.

One conspicuously absent Broadway buff was John Threlfall.

Deferring to his wife and two small children, the UVic Faculty of Fine Arts communications officer and culturevulturevictoria.com contributor opted to watch Game 7 instead - a decision he regrets.

"Alas, hockey over musicals - I never thought the day would come!" joked Threlfall.

Moffatt said Cineplex was "very happy" with the result of its nationwide Company broadcast, especially with the timing.

It follows the broadcast of shows such as Memphis and The Importance of Being Earnest.

"Broadway shows have long been requested by guests and they certainly have responded," he said.

mreid@timescolonist.com