On July 4, a slow news day, The New York Times ran an interesting feature article about a number of small towns that are operating their own first-run movie theaters—like the Roxy in Landon, North Dakota. They don’t add much to the weekend grosses you read about on Monday mornings, but they are keeping the tradition of moviegoing alive in close-knit communities from coast to coast: www.nytimes.com (You may have to be registered with The New York Times to read this piece.)
Prior to reading this article my only acquaintance with this kind of grass-roots movement was in the field of drive-in theaters. A number of outdoor screens have been saved, or brought back to life, especially in the South, by—
—proactive groups that want to see them flourish, and like the idea of having a place they can gather with friends and families on the weekends.
The dying main street movie house is also being kept alive by a handful of true believers like Allen Michaan, whose beautiful Grand Lake Theater is a fixture in Oakland, California—as described in this recent story from the San Francisco Chronicle online: www.sfgate.com.
And across the Bay from there lies the Balboa Theater, a twin-screen neighborhood art house operated with tender loving care by my old friend Gary Meyer, who also serves as co-director of the Telluride Film Festival. Gary has run movies for people his whole life, from his teenage years as he screened movies in a backyard barn to the cofounding of Landmark Theaters (which he and his partners later sold) to the present day, as he operates the Balboa with typical tender loving care. He offers revivals of classics, stages special events, and brings a flair for showmanship to a world dominated by faceless multiplexes. (Many theaters are showing Toy Story 3, but he invited the director of the accompanying short Day and Night, Teddy Newton, to make a personal appearance at the Balboa.) Gary also writes a chatty newsletter for his patrons that you can read at the Balboa website: www.balboamovies.com.
In spite of all the technology that’s overtaken our lives, people of all ages still like to go out to the movies. We have to support, and cheer on, those individuals and groups that make that experience something out of the ordinary.