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Movies, Craft Beer and Geek Stuff

Movies, Musings

Bring back small movie theatres.

I’ve often thought about why movies are so important to me. Why do I love the cinema more than most other people? To this day I couldn’t tell you with 100% certainty why this is the case but I can give you my best guess. It’s the town where I lived in Canada until I was 9. More specifically the local movie theatre, the Forest Kineto theatre. This little one-screen theatre holds some of my fondest childhood memories. I saw some of my all-time favourite movies there. The Back to the Future trilogy, E.T, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the list goes on and on. I went pretty often with my parents and my sister, mainly because it was 5 minutes away from home and because it was so cheap. To this day the ticket price is just $5 Canadian, about £2.

Forest Kineto theatre entrance

Thinking about that little theatre made me realise just how great small town local cinemas are. It’s a damn shame that all but a very scant few have been driven out of business by the 30 screen multiplexes run by massive international companies. That’s not to say I don’t like big cinemas. I’ll still enjoy seeing a movie there. The comfort and grandeur you get there is pretty much impossible to replicate at the small town theatre. Also, because of the massive amounts of screens they have you get a lot of variety. What you lose, however in the mass of sumptuous padded, reclining seats, choice of 12 movies and £6 family size troughs of popcorn is something greater and far more important than all that. Character.

Stories like what happened to the York Odeon just make me sad. That place had character by the bucket load and was one of the best cinemas I’ve ever been to. An old style picture house where deep red curtains revealed what seemed to be a huge screen and the seating was laid out in a classic arc. Odeon closed this great cinema in 2006 in order to, no doubt, rake in bigger profits from a nearby multiplex. Thankfully, however, this year Reel, a small cinema company, bought the building and re-opened! Unfortunately stories like this are the exception to the rule.

In my opinion, character counts for a lot. It counts for more than the latest 13.1 Dolby Digital jizz-in-your-pants sound or HD, super mega hyper 3D picture. That stuff is all well and good but the places that have it are sterile, soulless cash-cows. They’ve lost sight of what the true nature of the movie theatre is. It’s not about having the biggest dick the best technology and most expensive seats. It’s about the enjoyment of going out and seeing a movie on a big screen, with other movie lovers. Nothing more, nothing less. Smaller cinemas with classic character enhance this experience better than any lavish luxury or cutting edge audio/video technology ever could.

Kineto screening room

I think it says a lot about society that theatres which totally drown out all sense of personality and community are so successful. Have we become so anti-social that we need cinemas that are kitted out like 5 star hotels to distract us from the fact we’re watching the movie in a room with other people? I thought that was the whole point… Truth be told, if I had the choice between paying £7 for a fully air-conditioned, amphitheatre style multiplex cinema ticket or £7 for a cozy, classic style theatre complete with the smell of stale popcorn and the great feeling of community like I remember from the Kineto, Odeon and Showcase would see a lot less of my money.

10 comments

  1. Olly - October 1, 2009 2:11 pm

    Ive ALWAYS wanted to start a small independent cinema..

    Picture this…

    One screen like the one in your blog post, movies like terminator 1,2 & 3 in one night

    The back to the future trilogy

    Etc!

    Have the tickets cheapish, have themed nights or weeks, horror week, action week..

    I’d be in there every week!

  2. Dan Schonhaar - October 1, 2009 2:26 pm

    @Olly – Two words: Fuck yes!!

  3. Olly - October 1, 2009 3:46 pm

    I know of a PERFECT place in mansfield..

    It actually WAS a cinema at one point!

    On skerry hill, has recently been an animal pet feed place!

  4. Amy Mahon - October 1, 2009 3:57 pm

    There’s the Little Theatre Cinema in Bath! It’s tucked away in the city centre, really cute and shows a bunch of indie films as well as some mainstream. Totally cute.

    Bath indy Cinema

    P.S. Forest, eh… I know people from there!

  5. Dan Schonhaar - October 1, 2009 4:19 pm

    That looks amazing. Seats look comfortable and it looks like it would have a really close knit atmosphere. Awesome.

    Yep, Forest. Lovely place. 10 minutes from the beach. :)

  6. Magua - October 1, 2009 4:56 pm

    Nottingham – Savoy Cinema is the best cinema without a doubt! 4 Screens, no more than 8 [possible 10] films on per week and all for £4.50, or £3.50 if you’re a student!
    It looks pretty much like the one in the comments from Bath, and has it’s own small bar upstairs which serves alcohol which can be taken into the viewing rooms at half the price of a club/bar.

    Small cinemas also take me back to when i watched my first movie, and sat next to Emma Warris, Johnny Craven and my older brother plus some randoms i didnt know. It was Beverly Hill Cops if i recall correctly. Awesome.

  7. Dan Schonhaar - October 1, 2009 5:04 pm

    Yeah, Nottingham Savoy is a nice place. I’m sad to say I’ve only ever been there once, to see A Scanner Darkly. From what I remember the seats were so comfortable I nearly fell asleep.

  8. Amber Schonhaar Nickerson - November 13, 2009 9:11 pm

    Loved reading this, Dan! Remember you tagged along with me and my date, Marty, and we went to see Ghost Dad starring Bill Cosby? I think it was the summer of 1990. I also remember seeing many other flicks there too with you. Good times…

  9. Amber Schonhaar Nickerson - November 13, 2009 9:13 pm

    Ha! I just read this on Wikipedia —
    “Ghost Dad was critically panned, and wound up on many critics’ “Worst of 1990” and “Worst of all time” lists. Despite its critical failure, it was a financial success, mostly due to its low budget.”

  10. Glen - December 10, 2009 2:54 pm

    Hi Dan, I am the guy that books the movies for the Kineto Theatre. I just happened across your blog and wanted to let you know that The Old Kineto is doing just fine. We are still open and entertaining the young and old alike. re: Ghost Dad: I remember being told not to book in that movie but I did anyway and was one of our most attended films that year.

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