07/30/2013 05:34 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2013

Popcorn Preview: Zipper

Film: Zipper (2012)
Director: Amy Nicholson (Muskrat Lovely)
Genre: Documentary (77 minutes)

"What those who wish to improve Coney Island can never accept is the streak of anarchy etched deep in the soul of every great carnival." Rides, games, lights, boardwalk, laughs, hot dogs, corn on the cob, cotton candy, beach, sun, sand and the ocean... that's why visitors come to Coney Island. They've always liked the streak of anarchy that's pure Coney Island. Eddie Miranda was born and raised in Coney Island. He started working on the rides when he was 12 or 13. Then one day he bought a Zipper, one of the most beloved rides in Coney Island. His crew... Jerry, Larry, Joey, Don... tell us about working the Zipper. "Nearly froze my ass off that first winter." Every year before the season, "she" gets a complete overhaul and new paint job. Everyone loves the Zipper... you can tell by the screams. They scream to get out... then they buy another ticket and go again.

Sure, there were rumors about companies looking to buy up the whole place. Coney Island was a legendary amusement park. Even in the days of crime and gangs, people still came. Visitor numbers kept climbing until 2007. That's when it all started falling apart. So who is Joe Sitt. He calls himself "Joey Coney Island." He tells us he collected comic books as a kid. He loved Thor the most... "the protector of planet earth." That's why he calls his company Thor Equity... "to protect the old and bring it back to new." He tells us, "Coney Island doesn't mean anything any more. I want to polish it up and bring it back." Of course, that doesn't explain why so many people are out protesting to save Coney Island. Joe Sitt is rumored to have paid $150 million for all his Coney Island properties. The problem is that it's not zoned for any type of development that's worth that kind of money. If Sitt is going to turn a profit, he needs condominiums, big box stores, timeshares and a national amusement park operator... not the little mom-n-pops that are there now. From 15 million visitors in 2007, Coney Island was down to 3 million a few years later... thanks to all the rides having been pushed out. When Astroland left, the signs read "Astroland RIP. Joe Sit Rot in Hell."

The Coney Island story has many wrinkles... not the least of them is a mayor who believes in redevelopment. Before long, Coney Island was at the center of a tug-of-war between Mayor Bloomberg and Thor. It remains to be seen whether Coney Island is going to become a legendary amusement park again or just another national chain. One thing for sure, it's not likely to keep that streak of anarchy that made it legendary in the first place. Zipper is a sad story... not just because the people featured are losing their livelihood... but because it's such a familiar story... another small business getting mowed down by big-money developers. The film does a good job of showing us the people and rides that made Coney Island so special. Who knows what the next chapter will bring. Coney Island... RIP.

2 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
What happened when a developer decided to save a legendary amusement park (Coney Island) that didn't need or want saving

Popcorn Profile
Audience: Grown-ups
Distribution: Art house & video
Mood: Sober
Tempo: In no hurry
Visual Style: Amateur video
Primary Driver: Convey information
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Informative & Thought provoking

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