Nearly 45 years in the past, a group of Maine cinephiles started displaying overseas movies on authorities 16-millimeter projectors in an previous Waterville liquor warehouse. They hadn’t set out to earn cash or achieve recognition. They simply beloved films and wished to share the films they beloved with different individuals.
Decades later, Railroad Square Cinema and the Maine Film Center, the nonprofit that grew out of those DIY cinematic experiences, will likely be transferring into the model new $18 million Paul J. Schupf Art Center subsequent month, alongside artwork galleries, a Café and the center’s father or mother group, Waterville Creates.
For co-founder Ken Eisen, who was a part of the ragtag group of film nerds who screened Ingmar Bergman and Bernardo Bertolucci movies in a working-class Maine manufacturing unit city within the late Nineteen Seventies, it is exhausting to fathom simply how far all of it got here is.
“If you had told us back then that something like this would happen when we opened our tiny little theater with the $15,000 we had scraped together, we would have thought it completely ridiculous,” Eisen mentioned. “All we wanted back then was to stay open for as long as possible. And here we are. It’s kind of incredible to think about.”
For many years, the Railroad Square Cinema has been a beacon for film lovers all through jap and central Maine. Even properly into the streaming media period, everybody from faculty college students to retirees headed to Waterville to catch the films you simply cannot catch at your native mainstream multiplex. If you reside lower than an hour from Waterville and wish to see the most recent movie from administrators like Pedro Almodovar, Wes Anderson or Richard Linklater, you almost certainly go to Railroad Square.
That’s nonetheless true even after streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon revolutionized the best way individuals watch films and the pandemic closed theaters for a lot of 2020 and 2021.
Mike Perrault, govt director of the Maine Film Center, the group based in 1998 that now operates each the cinema and the Maine International Film Festival, mentioned artwork home and unbiased cinemas are community-building areas in addition to boards for the cinematic arts.
“Art house cinemas enhance the cultural life and economic vitality of their communities,” Perrault mentioned. “Railroad Square Cinema has embodied these values for so many for 44 years, and this is just the beginning of what the Maine Film Center plans to do for decades to come.”
Few unbiased film theaters stay in Maine, together with the Reel Pizza Cinerama in Bar Harbor, the Eveningstar Cinema in Brunswick, the Narrow Gauge Cinema in Farmington, the Magic Lantern in Bridgton, the Harbor Theater in Boothbay Harbor, and the Alamo Theater in Bucksport – the latter two are programmed by Eisen and the Maine Film Center. The Colonial Theater in Belfast closed indefinitely in September and is awaiting a new proprietor for the cinema. Several multipurpose theaters additionally present movies, together with the Strand Theater in Rockland, the Center Theater in Dover-Foxcroft and the Criterion Theater in Bar Harbor.
The new Maine Film Center can have three film theaters, with the primary theater room — affectionately dubbed the Railroad Square Cinema — seating 115 and providing each enhanced laser projection and Dolby sound, in addition to the power to challenge 35mm movies. The different two cinemas supply 43 and 22 seats respectively. It may even be a much-improved dwelling for the Maine International Film Festival, the 10-day competition held each July in Waterville that was based by Eisen and Co. virtually 25 years in the past.
The Paul J. Schupf Art Center is the fruits of years of labor by Colby College, Waterville Creates, the City of Waterville and a variety of donors to revitalize the town’s downtown space. Other tasks included within the effort embrace the Bill and Joan Alfond Main Street Commons, an residence advanced housing about 200 Colby college students; the Lockwood Hotel, now open to the general public; and Greene Block + Studios, an occasions and arts program house.
The previous three-screen Railroad Square Cinema at 17 Railroad Square in Waterville opened in 1995, shortly after its authentic location throughout the road burned down. The cinema is displaying its newest movie on November 23 with a screening of Casablanca, preceded by a farewell occasion. Prior to the ultimate day, the theater will display screen a vary of traditional and indie movies, from Harold and Maude to Do The Right Thing to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and an interactive screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It will reopen on December seventeenth within the new premises.
For Eisen, who has spent 1000’s of hours on the films however now splits his time between Maine and Argentina along with his spouse Karen, saying goodbye to previous theater is bittersweet — however as they famously say in Casablanca, it truly is the start of a stunning friendship.
“It’s a strange feeling, to be sure. There are a lot of good memories,” he mentioned. “But for me it’s about so much more than art house films or independent films. It’s really about community.”