Selling out: Why classic movies should return to theatres

23 Mar

Making the case for resurrecting the classics in local movie houses, and for why downtowns (especially mine) need quality theatres to screen these gems


On Wednesday evening, my mom and I saw Casablanca on the big screen as a part of a nationwide showing to celebrate the film’s 70th anniversary. While our area boasts the Palace Theatre–born as a plush movie house in the 1930s, and now enjoying popularity as a live performance venue–and Proctors–a storied vaudeville theatre expanded to host touring Broadway productions–this special screening of Casablanca took place at a modern multiplex. The sort of place I typically avoid at all costs, for its exorbitant prices, first-run crowds, maddening munching noises, sticky floors, texting tweens, and 20 minutes of in-your-face previews.

On this night, an eclectic but mostly older crowd has gathered. The theatre is packed, virtually sold-out. The movie is timeless magic. The audience claps at the end. In this over-the-top era of 3D movie spectacles, Hunger Games hype, and every other new release about war (real or imagined, past or future, alien or human), it makes my heart happy to see so many like-minded souls appreciating the quiet power of Ingrid’s teary glances, Bogart’s restrained anger, Claude Rains’ cheeky humor. In original aspect ratio, and flat, stark, black-and-white, no less.

“If only we could see more movies like that in theatres on a regular basis,” Mom and I muse on our way out. For years, I have hoped/wished/dreamed for a space in my hometown that would screen classic movies or alternative/independent-type films. We live in a small city, and like to think of it as a liberal, artsy, college town that would welcome and support an independent movie house. But nothing like that has “stuck” here. (Instead, we have become the bar-Italian restaurant-bar-Italian bistro-bar-Italian gelato hub.) Hubby and I enjoyed one of our early dates in the mid-1990s watching Rebel Without a Cause at an in-town theatre that was novel for showing classic and second-run movies to patrons seated in cozy wraparound booths, enjoying a full dinner with wine and beer. But that theatre went out of business at about the same time the nearby suburban mall was being reborn with an expanded multiplex. Years later, in the same space, idealistic entrepreneurs tried to resurrect the “dinner-and-a-movie” model, and were met with the same lack of community interest and ultimate business failure.

Popcorn Noir | Easthampton, MA

But maybe the time is right now…or soon. On the way in to work this morning, I hear a segment on APM’s Marketplace, about an enterprising couple in nearby Easthampton, Massachusetts, with a unique movie house called Popcorn Noir. It is genius. Here, all manner of movies–classic movies, film noir, kids’ features, cult favorites–are screened for free. For reals. (Or, should I say, for reels?) It is a great concept: Charge nothing for the movies; charge only for the quality food and drink, provided to patrons in an appealing, intimate setting (20 seats!). It’s doing so well that the owners are contemplating opening another location.

So this is my open plea…

  • To the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association and/or Chamber of Commerce and/or Zoning Board and/or any other entity that mysteriously shapes our fair city’s Master Plan and business mix: Please support the idea for a downtown theatre of this sort.
  • Downtown building owners: Please make it affordable for something other than a national chain, or someone other than a trust-fund socialite, to do business Downstreet.
  • Tom Doherty and Kristen Davis of Popcorn Noir: Please consider Saratoga Springs, NY for your second location.

Borders abandoned us…Let’s transform that still-empty brick behemoth on Broadway, and celebrate the classics–and cult faves, and independent films, and budding local cinematographers–in a big screen way. |


6 Responses to “Selling out: Why classic movies should return to theatres”

  1. Vik Chhabra March 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    +1. What is a “Hunger Game” anyway?

  2. Sarah March 23, 2012 at 7:23 pm #

    If they do that, I’m moving to Saratoga Springs, just so you know 🙂 Or to East Hampton. I just looked at their website and yeah, Popcorn Noir is my kind of place. I would love to have a theater like that, or any theater that would show classic films.

    I’m glad you and your Mom had a good time at Casablanca. I wish it would have worked out that we could have gone. The closest theater showing it was a big multiplex 65 miles away in the Chicago suburbs. I was sad, and shocked that Madison, our version of a liberal, artsy college town wasn’t in on this. I was so bummed I missed it. I’m gonna watch it tonight with some popcorn though. It’s a wonderful movie to spend time with.

    We really are alike in a lot of ways. Now, if some of your writing skills would just rub off on me, I’d be so happy.
    Happy Weekend!!

    • ramblings&roasts March 24, 2012 at 8:09 am #

      Haha! Miss Sarah, I’ll trade the writing for some of your cooking, sewing, photographing, decorating, generosity, humor, etc. Plus one of those sweet furry kids. You underestimate your mad skills,Wonder Woman 🙂

      • Sarah March 24, 2012 at 10:59 am #

        you will? Done! Yay!!!

        You’re so kind dear…..thank you 🙂
        Have fun this weekend!!!

  3. {Main St. Cuisine} March 25, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    The texting teens I can totally do without and the overpriced treats and drinks, but I do love going to the movies. Because I have children, I have lots of “opportunities” to see their movies….a recent favorite: Hugo. Loved it and thought it was beautifully created and acted.

    We are lucky enough to have a theatre here that shows lots of independent and foreign films. After buying your ticket, you can purchase a glass of wine and chat with friends. Our local art museum features a series of old movies at different points in the year. Wonderful venue and many times it’s a more obscure black and white that I haven’t seen. They usually kick off the evening with a film studies professor giving an intro to the movie, director, cast, etc. It’s perfect for a film buff like me.

    I would love to experience Casablanca in a setting like that. I haven’t seen it in several years, but would love to see it in a theatre. Now I’m off to go read more about Popcorn Noir. What a clever concept!

    • ramblings&roasts March 26, 2012 at 9:46 am #

      So lucky you are to have those screening venues! And funny you should mention “Hugo”, since that was the last first-run film I saw in the theatre…loved it! Saw it in 3D, but honestly, I think films like that are just as beautiful and more readily appreciated without the funny glasses that make me nauseous 😦

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