BLOG-The Miracle Off Short Street
- Published: September 28, 2013
11 pm – The lights are still on at the Little Art Theater. It has been a big day, and tomorrow the movies will start at 2pm. Popcorn buckets are being stacked, and the floors swept. Our theatre is ready. Our theatre is back.
9pm – The day’s events wind down. A good sized crowd filtered through the theatre’s doors like light through the door’s multiple panes. Among the impressive elements from the renovation have been improved acoustics of the remodeled hall and the crisp picture of the digital projection.
8pm – A charming discovery is made at the threshold between the foyer and the movie hall. After the theatre redesign, his and her bathroom doors now stand opposite of each other, and the gendered rooms tip their hat to an audience favorite, the movie Harold and Maude.
7pm – The evening sounds of downtown start to mingle as light fades. A fire armed juggler spins and whips and flings, and we turn our minds to the refreshments of the concession counter. A chalkboard behind the counter list many long time temptations: popcorn, an assortment of canned sodas, malt balls, chocolate covered raisins and cranberries, butter bars. Among the beverages there are some pleasant surprises: wine, specialty coffees, and beer.
As we wait our turn at the popcorn machine, I take note of a stunning orchid on the counter. The plant of cascading yellow petals and hot red hearts is a donation from a generous sponsor. On the opposite end of the counter is a glorious bouquet of summertime flowers. Its bursting beauty is in perfect harmony with the Little Art Theatre executive director Jenny Cowperthwaite who appears as pleased as a person could possibly be with her surrounding circumstance.
6pm – The day is still bright and sunny, but shadows start running long and the colors of autumn tint the light. A good crowd has gathered on Short Street now that the music has been in full swing for an hour.
The dinner bell chimes, and people pass us carrying fragrant portions. Three food carts have set up each known for their fresh tasty fare: La Pampa’s spicy sausages, chicken, and whole peppers grill over a wood fire. pad thai The thai tea from Tik’s Thai food cart looks especially refreshing. Harvest turns out cheese sandwiches, turkey burgers, potato fries, and squash fritters.
For dinner, we grab fare from all three vendors and divvy it all between the four of us.
5pm – The music starts up and who comes to dance but another big star—and I do mean big—Frankenstein’s monsters accompanied by the actors of the Yellow Springs Kids Playhouse boogies down Short Street showing us his two-story version of the monster mash.
4:30pm – We head outside for food and don’t make it farther than the face painting booth. As my daughter prepares for sparkle, I catch a glimpse of a glittering celebrity.
3:45pm – My children find their seats when Betty Boop takes the screen as Cinderella. Jeremy takes the opportunity to set the family up with membership cards. He scores two bonus movie passes—a special offered today to anyone signing up for a new membership—and makes it back in time to watch Superman save Gotham City from a giant marauding dinosaur.
3pm – The theatre opens and guests arrive. A good crowd settles into cushy new seats that look orange in strong light and burgundy in the weaker light. A matinee of classic cartoons plays on the screen. Tracing back the light ray, I can finally figure out where the new projector has been installed. Ah, ha! The digital projector is in an office just above the box office.
The thing that is interesting about this set up—the projector filtering through two windows—is that the theatre will not be kept completely dark though truly the light quality of the screen is quite good this bright afternoon.
2pm – A table has been set up outside the box office to offer memberships. Across the street, a booth with T-shirts commemorating the opening has set up. Both tables are decorated with fresh cut dehlia. The T-shirts feature a logo designed by Matt Minde. The logo is a bold white on black graphic featuring the graphics of the Little Art name and an abstract film reel raining pixels down.
1pm – The time of the grand opening celebration draws near. Short Street is closed to parking, and the partitions are up blocking entrance to the street. In two short hours, this street will be the scene of food and music. A disc jockey will be spinning dance tunes, and food carts will offer up delights. I hear whispers about surprises for both young and old.
If the scene already looks bright and festive, there is good reason. The renovated theatre is not the only feature sporting a fresh coat of paint. Just yesterday, a village crew refreshed the crosswalks in front of the theatre to a blazing white.
The front facade of the Little Art is now a blue gray in harmony with the silver and glass trim and in contrast to the sunny golds and oranges within. The buttery interior of the theatre now tempts the passerby through the multi paned wood and glass doors. The ticket counter—once a booth—now invites the customers into the foyer beyond with its generous ceiling and concession stand. Just inside, I can see two offerings from the Yellow Spring Brewery on tap behind a curving stone and glass counter top.
If I had any doubts about moving to Yellow Springs, the Little Art Theatre obliterated them. It sealed the deal in a flash. My first drive through the village took me east on Dayton Street then south through the traffic lights on Route 68. In the twilight hour of a May evening in 1994, the independent theatre stood like a beacon. Illuminated by the glow of its red lettered marquee, I knew immediately that I was home.
The mark of Destiny was as much in the name as in its makeup. As a teenager in Upstate New York, my brother Peter drove my sisters and I to a movie or two on the weekends. Ticket prices were $3 a seat back then, and our parents graciously subsidized our $5 allowance so we could go. They were grateful perhaps in knowing exactly where we were for those hours. Our movie habit became so regular that we knew most trailers by heart. “Dogs and cats, living together. Mass hysteria!” “Wax on, wax off.” “I’ll be back!” Hungry for more and better films, we discovered Binghamton’s Art Theater on Vestal Avenue. There, we satiated our undying thirst with classics like the Cohen Brother’s Blood Simple and the many foreign and independent films it featured until the 1920s movie house burned down in 2004. When I moved to Rochester NY, I embarrassed myself by calling that city’s Art Theater. When I asked over the phone what titles they were showing, the person on the other end of the line paused and said, “We don’t get that question often. We show adult films. You want the Little Theatre.” I cooled my blush later that day in the halls of The Little Theatre. There, in its three cinemas, I discovered an enduring love of Spike Lee and Pedro Almodóvar films and the New York style cheesecake that the Little offered from the Sweet Stuff Cafe next door.
The Little Art Theatre not only combined the names of my two favorite cinemas but other important elements: terrific films, really good popcorn, chocolate covered sundries, lemon bars, and—most importantly—a loyal band of fellow movie goers. I had not anticipated finding a film house in Yellow Springs—its two story downtown petite in comparison to my previous cities of Binghamton, Rochester, and Los Angeles. I was thrilled to find film thrived here and not just in appreciation but in well honed craft as well.
The community project that has been the renovation of the Little Art Theatre speaks resoundingly well of Yellow Springs. Other independent movie houses across the country in big cities and small are struggling to make the leap to the new reality of digital movie distribution. Today, the Little Art Theatre completes its transformation from film to digital projection and, after an extensive five month renovation, opens its doors at 3pm for a Grand Opening.
The renovation started in May and in earnest. First things to go were the old movie seats repurposed by a line of folks who showed up on May 11th to take home a piece of local film history. The dust started flying later that week as walls came down to expose a brick wall to the north and ancient wallpaper on the south. Hammering rang out as floors were pulverized and dug up so that the plumbing could be retooled. After new floors were poured and the walls framed out, elements of the redesign became more apparent. The foyer was remodeled to open up the space to light and life. The north side brick remained exposed as the carpenters laid out a front room deeper and higher than its predessor. The big window through which the old film projector would illuminate the screen was reinstalled but both the projector and the room that housed it is no more. The new vaulted foyer beams a welcoming golden warm glow that rivals the freshly cleaned marquee.
What lies beyond remains an intriguing mystery but isn’t that the way of theater? Today, the doors open and curtains will part. Follow me throughout the day as we welcome back this great institution and rediscover how cool going to the movies together is.