Split Decision: Spending Time at the Art House
Welcome back to Split Decision! Each week, we pose a question to our staff of knowledgable and passionate film geeks and share the responses! We may never know if it is legal to park in the center of Broad Street, but we’ll answer movie questions all day long. Chime in on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments below!
This week’s question:
In honor of Art House Theater Day, what is your favorite place to catch a film?
I misspent my youth at the TLA on South Street when it was a revival house. My first subtitled film was Diva, and it was a packed house on a Saturday night, a great experience all around. I loved the offbeat fare the TLA and the Roxy Screening Room (then a 1-screen venue) showed back in the mid-80s. (Favorites of the Moon) was a tiny film I snuck out to see on a Sunday night, much to my parents' chagrin). I have so much affection for those venues, as well as the Ritz (where I also saw far too many films, most notable The 4th Man, back when Ramon Posel owned it and it was only 3 screens). But I love all kinds of arthouses. The Angelika Film Center in NY, where the subway cars run under your feet during the film, the Film Forum, the IFC Center, the Quad, the Anthology Film Archives, the Cinema Village, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center screens--the Walter Reed in particular. I find excuses to go to these venues whenever I'm in NYC. There is the Castro and the Roxie in San Francisco. (I saw Man Bites Dog at the Roxie, back when it was an iffy area, and that was one scary trip to the movies!) In Boston, I fondly recall midnight screenings of Stop Making Sense at the Harvard Square Cinema and Head at the Brattle and the long lost Janus (where I saw Chilly Scenes of Winter three days in a row), the late great Orson Welles Cinema (where I saw The Times of Harvey Milk), and Copley Plaza Cinemas (where I saw Petit Con and Gabriela). Aug 2, 1985, I chainsmoked 7 films in one day in Cambridge, MA. (Good practice for my future life at film festivals). I lament the lost art houses, the Lincoln Center Theater in NYC, and worry about the fate of the Lightbox Film Center in Philadelphia. I also must say that the suburban arthouses in Philadelphia, The Colonial, The Ambler, the County, and of course the BMFI are dear to me. I visit them whenever I can because they do special programming that speaks to why I watch and write. For me, Art House Day is EVERYDAY!
While their venue isn't a concrete building of its own just yet (though you can donate to help make that happen!), Exhumed Films have been delivering a unique cinema experience to the Philadelphia area and beyond for over 20 years. Specializing in recovered 16mm and 35mm prints of exploitation, horror, and other genre cinema, their shows range from specialized double features (like this year's HORROR NOIRE / CANDYMAN bill) to themed weekends at Mahoning Drive-In (such as Godzilla-palooza, two triple-feature marathons of Godzilla films). They're probably best known for the 24-hour Horror-thon, which may see its final iteration this year, as their regular venue The Lightbox Theater is being relocated. If you have an interested in genre films, lost films, or just film in general as they rarely project anything digitally, you simply must check out their shows.
I could only ever pick the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. Not only have I seen plenty of films I’ve loved there, from new releases like Holy Motors, Moonlight, and The Wind Rises, but also some of my most treasured moviegoing experiences have been seeing repertoire films there. American Graffiti (on 35MM!), Army of Shadows, The Great Dictator, and too many others to name are all films I was able to take in the way they were meant to be seen.
But BMFI also is the setting for one of the best days of my life, as Jill and I got married there! You can see some pictures and things from Jill’s writeup at the time here. But the long and the short of it is that movies have been foundational to our relationship, and though it has grown well beyond them, we still have a deep love for film and the power of cinema. We’ve been married for over 4 years now, and every time we see a film at Bryn Mawr I’m reminded of everything I love about her, and how proud I am to be her husband. She is truly the best person I have ever met in so many ways. And to think, it all started because we loved the movies.