I’ve always wanted to live next to a movie theater. Sure, a short driving distance is ok, but I’m talking about walking distance. Being able to leave my room and watch a projected flick in a matter of minutes has been a goal of mine for many years; attempts to build a screening room in my home are on indefinite hiatus. I can’t begin to express my jealousy over the people that live across the street from The Prytania Theatre. Just two weeks ago, I moved to the Elmwood area. Yes, I’m close to a few good venues, but not as close I’d like to be.
The documentary No More Joy highlighted (in quite the depressing manner) the rise and fall of NOLA’s neighborhood movie houses. At one point in time, we had a theater for every community in the city. Of course, the film industry and the way we receive entertainment changed, consolidating many single screens into multiplexes and swapping local identity for corporate uniformity. The movie ends with a sad Rene Brunet, currently an operator of The Prytania, leaving a phone message for moviegoers, explaining the shutting down of The Joy Theater.
Years later, we’ve seen the renovation and reopening of The Joy (as a multi-purpose venue), as well as outdoor screenings from the New Orleans Film Society and creative programming from Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center and Chalmette Movies. We may have recently lost one in Kenner, only to gain two more (one on the North Shore) at a future date. Things are looking nice, but could always be better.
I’m not alone in my yearning for more silver screens. Neighborland.com is a place for people in various cities to propose ideas to better their respective areas. Recycling, bicycle paths and solar power are all common requests. For fun, I plugged in the keywords “movie theater”, and was surprised to find that the craving I have is shared with others. Now, just posting an idea doesn’t automatically mean it will happen, but it will put it in front of many users and could potentially come across the desk of someone who could make it happen. Right now, a proposal for a single screen theater in Mid-City has 60 supporters. Other venue suggestions don’t fare quite as well, but the ideas for them are out there. It’s a start.
In discussions of my previous writings on New Orleans-area movie theaters, I’ve discovered I am not alone. There are indeed others like me: slightly naive and cinema-obsessed. We are the kind that purchased copies of Rene Brunet’s book on the old city theaters and treated them as blueprints. We are the kind that attend Creature from the Black Lagoon in 3D at Chalmette Movies, in addition to the Middle East Film Fest at Zeitgeist. We are the kind that pull out our MoviePass card with glee. We just love moviegoing.
I once drove an hour to get to a midnight showing of The Human Centipede: First Sequence at The Prytania. Knowing that I can now throw a rock and hit one of these screenings makes me happy. If only I could walk to one…
Featured image: Paul Lowry
I know the director so if you all are interested in connecting or getting any tips on how they did it, and how you could do it. I could try and get in touch. I am relocating to New Orleans in the near future and would love to have as many movie houses as possible ;)
This is the liink to their site. It is pretty amazing what they were able to do with fundraising. Luckily the Pacific Northwest is a haven for film lovers. http://pickfordcinema.org/
In the town I live in they built a small locally funded independent theatre. It has patrons like a club, and of course they charge admission. It was slow going at first, and hard to get access to a lot of larger titles, but they just recently built a nicer theater in an historic building with 2 screens and a cafe. I believe small, local theaters are important to culture and new business models may help preserve or resurrect them.