I recently ran across a Guardian blog about how wonderful and
how at-risk independent cinemas are. It opens with a mention of New York City’s new fake drive-in, and while that
does sound fun, I’m even more a fan of the gimmick-free movie house that’s all about good film rather than about the fanciest sound system or fanciest coffee or fanciest
stadium seating. (I also love my Harry Potter in IMAX, so feel free to take all I say with a grain of floo powder).
Even though independent films often screen at mainstream chains these days, there’s nothing quite like squeezing into a tiny theatre fashioned out of an old fire station,
or buying a ticket from someone who’s also owner and popcorn vendor, or entering beneath a marquee that hasn’t changed since admission cost a quarter.
I started thinking about my own favorite movie houses, and while the
Castro is one of the more famous independents, has done a lot for queer film, and was the happy site
of my introduction to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg a few years ago, it’s not truly close to my heart. (Yet — my trip to the Sound of Music
sing-along next month may well tip the scales.)
No, my true favorites are the ones that showed the high-school me a world beyond my hometown. They’re not particularly well-known, and one of them is closing its doors even as I
write (RIP, Westcott Cinema),
but at age 16 I was hugely fortunate to have places to see independent women
rather than rom-com queens, independent queens
rather than comic-relief sidekicks, and even a (very) few lesbians.
Indie film wasn’t — nor is it — perfect, but it was generally different than what was playing at the mall, and that was a very good thing.
I’ve found a few other favorite movies houses along the way,
and I’m anxious to check out the two indie places in my new hometown; I just hope they don’t meet the same fate as the Westcott did in the age of 13-screen behemoths,
Netflix and cable on demand. Use the comments to give your favorite indies a shout-out — and pass the popcorn!