It used to be that movie-lovers interested in seeing the latest independent and foreign film titles in a theater had to live in New York or Los Angeles. Everyone else was pretty much out of luck unless they had an art house theater nearby willing to do the legwork involved with bringing these less commercial films to their local audiences. And unfortunately, not every city was lucky enough to have such wonderful places.
Thankfully, Rochester has long been home to some great independent movie theaters. Sure, Netflix, streaming, and on demand video services have leveled the playing field by allowing anyone to access smaller films with the touch of a button, but still, nothing can beat the feeling of experiencing a movie with an audience hungry for something different. Being surrounded by a crowd of like-minded individuals can increase your viewing enjoyment immeasurably; there's a reason that almost none of my fondest movie-watching experiences involve me sitting alone in my living room.
On Saturday, September 24, two of Rochester's local art houses will participate in the first-ever Art House Theater Day, a nationwide holiday celebrating these beloved institutions and everything they do for the culture of a city. In honor of what is basically my new favorite holiday (don't worry Halloween, you still hold a special place in my heart), The Little (240 East Avenue) and the Dryden (900 East Avenue) will screen special programming for the occasion.
The Dryden will be showing "Greendale" at 8 p.m. Part of the "Bernard Shakey = Neil Young" series, the musician and independent filmmaker directs this small-scale musical look into the lives of a fictional California town of Greendale. Shot on Kodak Super 8, the film is a handcrafted, micro-budget work of passion, exactly what you want from your independent movies.
Meanwhile, just down the road, The Little will present an entire lineup of films all day long, which showcase the breadth of programming that art house movie theaters can offer. The fun begins at 12 p.m. with "A Town Called Panic," Belgian filmmakers StéphaneAubier and Vincent Patar's oddball comedy about the misadventures of Cowboy, Indian, and Horse. The entire thing is acted out by little toy plastic figures, and it's delightful.
Things continue on in fantastical fashion at 3 p.m. with Terry Gilliam's fairy tale adventure, "Time Bandits," about a boy who joins up with a band of time-traveling dwarves. This is Gilliam we're talking about, so the story's wacky, imaginative, and just a little bit dark.
At 7 p.m. you can catch the music documentary "Danny Says," which focuses on music manager, publicist, executive, journalist, and author Danny Fields, who played a pivotal role in the rock scene of the late-20th century by working with acts like The Doors, Cream, Lou Reed, Nico, Judy Collins, the Stooges, MC5, and the Ramones. Bop Shop Records will also be on hand for record giveaways and a special introduction for the film. A live-stream Q&A is also scheduled to follow the screening.
The Little closes out the celebration with a screening of the fancy new restored version of the 1979 horror flick "Phantasm" at 9:30 p.m. In this cult classic, a teenage boy faces off against a mysterious grave robber known only as the Tall Man and his arsenal of deadly weapons, including the film's iconic silver sphere, capable of some nasty deeds.
In addition to the four film screenings, The Little is planning film-related giveaways and special promotions throughout the day. For complete details on each theater's events, visit thelittle.org and eastman.org/dryden-theatre. And if you want more details about Art House Theater Day itself, head on over to arthousetheaterday.org.