I’ve been handed a couple of tickets to see the big swanky restoration of Abel Gance‘s Napoleon at Oakland’s Paramount theatre on Saturday, 3.31. The film will run 5 and 1/2 hours and the show will run longer, beginning in the late afternoon with two or three intermissions plus a dinner break. I saw a shorter version 31 years ago at the Radio City Music Hall with a live orchestral score, composed and conducted by Carmine Coppola. It was truly fabulous all around — ecstatic, unforgettable.

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is presenting the show. The Napoleon restoration is by historian, documentarian and archivist Kevin Brownlow, and restoration guru Robert Harris is a co-presenter. We’re talking four special screenings at the Paramount (3.24, 3.25, 3.31, 4.1).

For whatever reason there are no plans to take the Napoleon show to any other cities. I can’t figure why. You’d think film buffs coast-to-cast and worldwide would gladly pay top dollar to see this, especially with the live orchestra and all. Talk about a once-in-a lifetime thing.

The problem for me is that I’ll have to shell out $500 to make the Oakland show. The roundtrip Southwest air fare (Burbank to Oakland) will run about $300 minmum and then there’s renting a car for $40 a day with a one-night $100 hotel cost (and maybe a bit more) plus meals and Diet Cokes and whatnot.

I’ll never see Napoleon on a big Polyvision screen again and I remember what a jolt it was in NYC in ’81, but I’m still having trouble with plunking down five Ben Franklins and perhaps a tad more. You have to show a little discipline in life. I’ve never splurged like this for a single viewing of a film. Even if a Bay Area friend lets me crash on their couch it’s still a $400-plus tab so I don’t know. I’m mulling it over.

I could always rent a car in LA and drive up, but I’d have to leave on Friday if I want to be rested for the Saturday afternoon show. Friday to Monday rental at $40 a day would be $120 plus insurance plus gas — figure $220 or so. But I’d have to stay Friday and Saturday night at a motel/hotel and that would be a couple of hundred plus meals so I’d be right back to $500 or so.

I’m going to a friend’s wedding in the Palm Springs area next weekend, and that’s a big deal that I don’t want to miss. The tab for that will be $500 plus a wedding gift so I don’t know about Oakland. I really want to go but it feels excessive. Why don’t they just bring the show to LA?