AVALON — Moviegoers filled cinema halls across the United States to watch ‘Bad Times at the El Royale,’ the fall thriller directed Drew Goddard and starring Jeff Bridges. The film’s opening scene had a familiar sound for Southern California boaters: Within minutes of the film starting the sounds of ‘26 Miles (Santa Catalina)’ blared from the movie theater’s sound system.
The song was an odd choice for the film, since the scene it was featured in was set in Lake Tahoe – which is nowhere near Avalon (let alone Southern California, for that matter).
‘26 Miles (Santa Catalina)’ was performed by The Four Preps and reached as high as the number two slot on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was an ode to all things Catalina Island. The 26 miles reference, of course, is the travel distance across the channel, from Los Angeles to the island. Catalina Island’s coastline and surrounding environs were romanticized throughout the track.
Such romanticism, actually, might be exactly the reason why a hit song about Catalina was playing throughout a scene where a man is burying a briefcase underneath the floorboards of a motel room on the California-Nevada border near Lake Tahoe. We later find out the buried briefcase contained a large amount of cash, which was stolen by a gang or robbers. Perhaps the robbers were planning a getaway to Catalina Island once they were in the clear with the stolen money? Maybe, but at minimum a piece of Catalina was featured in the opening scene of a Hollywood thriller.