Drexel051509Do you have an independent movie theater that you love?

I love the Drexel, a longtime cultural landmark in my leafy suburb of Bexley, Ohio.

I'm going there tonight. I always want to go to the Drexel.

In Columbus, I know there is another beloved independent cinema — Studio 35. It is to Clintonville, what the Drexel is to Bexley.

What Does It Mean To
Love A Movie Theater?

To me, it means this:

  • It's not going to the movies. It's going to the Drexel. Rather than wondering, "What movies are playing in Columbus?" I wonder, "What's playing at the Drexel?"
  • In the lobby, I talk about movies with people, even strangers. In megaplexes, the only conversation I've had with strangers is: "Is this the end of the line?" and "Excuse me, but you are standing on my foot."
  • I trust the owners to pick worthy films. It's like our neighbors got together, rented some cool movies, and shares them at the neighborhood's home movie theater.

My secret truth: I'm willing to pay up to 30% more to see a movie at the Drexel rather than at a megaplex. I so prefer the experience of visiting a locally owned oner, rather than an impersonal, corporate chain.

I Have Loved Before
The first time I loved a movie theater, it wasn't a movie theater. It was the Yale Law School.

The Law School Film Society screened films in the auditorium, which seated several hundred students who were otherwise accustomed to visiting the auditorium for guest speakers, political debates or lectures on History of Art by Vincent Scully.

It was in the dark one evening in the Law School auditorium that I first recognized the power of seeing a movie with a large group of smart people. We saw classics — from Casablanca to A Clockwork Orange — and movies that spoke particularly to us as students, like Paper Chase.

Kingsfieldbw I'll always remember my roommate's response to the difficult silence following Professor Charles Kingsfield's unethical, public ridicule of a student: "Mr. Hart, here is a dime. Call your mother. Tell her there is serious doubt about your becoming a lawyer."

In the dark, amid hundreds of students, my roommate pierced the silence, shouting a vulgarity. The audience roared with approval.

The only thing I ever learned in law school: watching a movie is — often, at its very best — a communal experience.

Next Love:
Theatre 80 St. Marks

503989676_09d79c3cddHere, I learned the pleasure of going to the movies alone, of classic double features, of a concession stand with character in a dramatically lit lobby.

I spent long summer weekend afternoons in this cinema. Alone with the movies.

Independent movie theaters can change the way we think and feel about being in the public realm.

What now?
The independent theaters that I love are in danger. Theatre 80 St. Marks eventually stopped screening movies. (There is live theatre there now.)

There is marketplace pressure from distributors, from changing channels of distribution, from home theaters and big screen televisions, from consumer behavioral changes, from all sorts of entertainment alternatives. "Art Theatre" is no longer a unique offer, now that Netflix and the megaplex can bring us Sundance.

This Week Community Newspapers reported in the spring about financial challenges at the Drexel. Columbus Alive! answered with advice for the owners.

What do you think?
What do you love about the Drexel, Studio 35, or your favorite independent movie theater?

What can — and should — an independent movie theater do that the megaplex can't or won't?

Click on "Comments" below and leave your thoughts.