Arthouse Theatres Meeting the Grindhouse of the Motion Picture Industry

Posted: September 9, 2012 in General
Tags: , , , , , ,

Once upon a time the downtown movie theatre was the weekly gathering place to catch up on information that could not be had from the local newspaper.  News reels were featured during intermissions and as a prelude to feature film.  Long before television became mainstream and even after, the one or two screen theatre on Main Street USA was the place to be on weekends.  As time has gone on downtown theatres became to expensive to run as they had to compete with multi-screen cinemas that featured numerous high dollar films at one time.  Even the drive-in, the dark land of hormonal bliss that was at one time, probably responsible for more Saturday night babies then short stay hotel rooms, has all but gone the way of the Dodo.

In the last 10 to 15 years there has been a renaissance of sorts for the downtown theatres that were structurally sound enough to warrant investment in.  all over the country, Art House theatres have sprung up.  Indie and art films have had great amounts of screen time in downtown environments that have also benefited in gentrification.  Some theatres like the Cameo Art House Theatres on Hay Street in Fayetteville, NC have on occasion play some of the big screen blockbusters in the 12 years that there doors have been open.

The Cameo found itself in the fortunate position of growing a steady and faithful clientele over the years as downtown has grown into a more enjoyable experience.  Opened after the notoriety of Hay Street was a few years in the rearview window, the Cameo is part of the foundation of Fayettevilles renaissance.  Thanks to the multi-billion dollar film industry, that foundation may crack, leaving the Cameo, and thousands of other downtown theatres, futures in question.

According to an article in the Fayetteville Observer Times today, the industry is going to start filling movie requests to theatres strictly in a digital format.  The upgrades to these small venues will cost in the neighborhood of $100,000 dollars per viewing area.  The Cameo has one main theatre and a smaller more intimate theatre making their upgrades near the $200,000 mark.  As one of the small, independently owned business downtown they see a regular, decent crowd, but a price that high is a steep price to pay.

As part of the downtown scene, the Cameo has played host to numerous events besides movies over the years.  The Horrible Folks Comedy Show, an improv comedy troupe plays every other Saturday after the theatre closes, at about 11:30 PM.  This show of local comedians is run something like Who’s Line is it Anyway, but much raunchier with no topic (almost) out of bounds.  Last year prior to the vote on NC Amendment 1, they hosted the reading of 8, a play about California’s Proposition 8.  The venue is also able to be rented out for occasions.  The friendly staff has been there for years and can be found sipping coffee from Rude Awakening coffee shop next door at the outdoor tables provided in the front of the building.  The Cameo is in a great location for a first date or a simple nights escape for the overtaxed couple who desperately needs it as it sits right next door to Pierro’s Italian restaurant and has a Beef O’Brady’s restaurant two doors the other day.  There is a pretty decent size and growing weekend nightlife all the way around.

The owners, Nasim and Chris have invested themselves in downtown and provided a great venue.  I hope that when the time comes, should they need it, or even if they do not ask for it, that all the people who benefit from this awesome small business can find it in their hearts to help out.  The price is high for the owners to do this on their own.  Currently, the best we can do is support the theatre by going to the movies they have and make sure they have a full house all the time.  If the time comes when they need a little more, I know there are some downtown regulars who will help organize a little extra in order to keep this place alive.

I will update as I find out more.

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