Can any New Yorker still remember a time before Regal Cinemas’ Twenty (now called First Look), the infomercial assault that the theater chain euphemistically refers to as pre-feature advertising? It has been decades since theatergoers could purchase a movie ticket and then sit peacefully in the theater, staring ahead with vacant intensity at a blank screen, while over the sound system nothing more insinuating than classical music played. And yet it’s hard not to feel nostalgic after the death on Monday of Don LaFontaine, the ubiquitous voice of American movie trailers.
LaFontaine’s histrionic baritone was the sound of an obsolete moviegoing era, a time when viewers waited for the lights to go down with anticipation (today, we wait for the darkness to bring relief). Fontaine’s signature line (“In world where…”) has been parodied and self-parodied for years, but his delivery never became as rote and disingenuous as the P.R. cliches actors now cough up on First Look to promote their latest upcoming film role (“He/she’s tough, he/she’s smart…”). One man. Made a difference. And now. He’s gone. —Benjamin Strong