Topic: Westerly RI: Art house cinema to open in downtown
From: Dallas, TX
Registered: Feb 2003
posted May 19, 2003 08:43 AM
From The Day:
Revival House: Art Cinema Will Find A New Home In Westerly
By DAN PEARSON
Day Arts Writer
Published on 5/18/2003
Westerly— Before entering, filmgoers should be forewarned: The Revival House is not like other movie theatres. First, no popcorn. Second, the lobby is not filled by life-sized cardboard cutouts of Eddie Murphy or the deafening throttle of Grand Prix video games. Third, there are drink options beside gallon tanks of fountain cola. If they want, patrons can even have beer or wine on a patio overlooking the Pawcatuck River.
Most important, patrons should be made aware that the material they will view at the Revival House may contain plot development, intelligent dialogue, and, more likely than not, substance.
This might all sound a little risky. But, after years of dreaming about operating an independent art house cinema, Daniel Kamil and Emily Steffian are ready to see if it will work in downtown Westerly.
“The major Hollywood studios are each in the market to get their own blockbuster film into 3,000 theaters worldwide, so a lot of small but important films never get out there,” said Kamil. “As a result, important films come and go. We hope that with the Revival House, people will get a chance to see these films.”
Later this summer, the Revival House is to open in the former Antiques & More store at 42-46 High St. Kamil, 33, and Steffian, 37, who are married and live in a loft above the cinema, hope to offer the region an alternative to the Cineplex chains by screening foreign and independent films, documentaries and animation, and by showing classic flicks, beginning with primitive but seminal turn-of-the-century silent films. The Revival House is also an ambitious architectural restoration project that will open up further access to the Pawcatuck. When the project is completed, a stairway will lead down from the cinema to an open-air patio café on the banks of the river.
“The whole point of the Riverwalk is to open up additional frontage on the backside of those buildings (along High Street,) and the cinema opens up access to the natural amenities,” said Sharon Ahern, executive director of the Downtown Joint Development Task Force. “I think the idea of a movie theatre down there is going to remind a lot of people of the old days of the Wayfarer (cinema.)”
Kamil and Steffian, who have lived in cities on both coasts, said they have been inspired by other independent cinemas across the country, especially the Brattle, a landmark in Harvard Square, and the McMenamins' cinemas in Portland, Ore., a series of restored buildings that screen second-run and art films and offer alcoholic beverages, including micro-brewed beer.
The couple had hoped to initiate the project in Providence, where they considered several sites, including a gas station across from the Modern Diner.
But they turned to Westerly when they were confronted by endless development red tape and a saturation of the film market in the capitol. In Westerly, they saw the chance to own and rehabilitate a property and to become a part of an increasingly vital downtown.
The Revival House is situated in a Victorian structure equipped with its original tin ceiling, brickwork and hardwood floors. To open up the space for a 9-foot-by-16-foot screen, Kamil and Steffian are knocking down a wall.
When it is completed, the interior will include a concession stand that sells locally baked goods, panini sandwiches, coffee and espresso drinks, beer and wine, and candies.
Instead of traditional rows, the audience will sit at café tables and at a single elevated banquette booth that runs nearly the width of the cinema. Capacity is expected not to exceed 60. Outside, Kamil and Steffian will remove aluminum siding and expose and preserve the underlying wood boards.
“A very important part of this project has been the historic restoration,” said Steffian. “In the same way that we are in part reviving films, we wanted to be able to help revive the downtown.”
Kamil said the films would be shown from a digital video projector mounted on the ceiling.
The program, which will be planned out two months in advance, is expected to include, among other selections, three films a week by a single director. As a revival house, the owners hope to attract senior citizens as well by screening black and whites and film classics.
Kamil and Steffian hope to provide a forum for local filmmakers and are researching a non-profit component that would fund lectures and film series.
The cinema's grand opening is scheduled for late July or early August and will include films from Auguste and Louis Lumiere, the pioneering French brothers who held the first public film screening in 1895.
The Revival House is scheduled to be open seven days a week, with weekend double features.
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From: Thomaston, CT
Registered: Feb 2003
posted January 09, 2004 01:42 PM
From the New London Day:
The Big Picture: Westerly Theater Puts Classics Back On The Silver Screen
By STEPHEN CHUPASKA
Published on 1/4/2004
Westerly -- Classic films are getting back to where they once belonged.
The onset of video rentals in the 1980s spelled the end for second-run movie houses around the country. Instead of shuffling across the aisles to their seats, people were content to stay at home, on their sofas, to catch their old favorites.
Yet, something was lost in that transition, namely the communal nature of taking in a classic flick at a theater.
It is a feeling that the Revival House in Westerly hopes to resuscitate.
“There is something about going into a movie theater and being in a dark place with other people that is a fun thing to do,” said co-owner Emily Steffian.
After over seven months of remodeling, Steffian and her husband, Daniel Kamil, finally raised the curtain in November on the Revival House, located on 42-46 High St. in downtown Westerly. The theater's program features film classics along with independent, foreign films and, eventually, the work of local filmmakers.
It is just one aspect of what Kamil calls “a unique experience.” For example, the concession stand offers sandwiches, espresso, beer, and wine, rather than the traditional cinema fare such as popcorn or Milk Duds. When warmer weather returns, moviegoers will be able to sip their pre-movie drinks outside on a patio not far from the banks of the Pawcatuck River.
The newly renovated theater consists of two rooms: a café/lobby decorated with orange-red wall cityscape photography and a mural by Rhode Island artist Katherine Lovell, and a screening room with a capacity of 60. Patrons sit at café-style tables, with comfy chairs imported from France. There is also a raised booth along the back wall.
On a night just before Christmas, people gathered in the café, waiting to watch “It's a Wonderful Life.” In the background, the sound of the last 20 minutes of the 5 o'clock screening seeped out from behind a red curtain. It seemed, for a moment, that George Bailey and Clarence might step off the screen and out in the streets of Westerly, which was bathed into the cozy glow of white Christmas lights.
The cast of a local production of “A Christmas Carol” was huddled in the corner having drinks and pastries. Decked in holiday colors, Ruthie Walker and her seven-year old daughter Olivia were sitting at nearby table enjoying toasted sandwiches and a hearty bowl of soup.
Walker said that she was excited about introducing her daughter to classic films on the big screen, “as people would see it 60 or 70 years ago.”
Steffian, 37, and Kamil, 33, are East Coast natives — from Cambridge, Mass., and New York, respectively — and were inspired by similar theaters in Portland, Oregon, and in Boston, Mass. (Neither has run a cinema before. Kamil, though, worked in production on various films and TV shows, including “Chicago Hope.” He also helped produce a documentary for Channel 4 in the United Kingdom. Running the Revival House is now their full-time job.)
The duo originally hoped to open a revival house in Providence, but they were unable to cut through some considerable civic red tape. Having their hearts set on a “building with character,” they found what they were looking for in the former Antiques and More site, a Victorian structure that is on the National Historic Register. And they also found a city welcoming them with open arms.
“The general sense was ‘Thank God someone is doing something with building,' ” said Kamil.
They purchased the entire building — including their residence in the loft — renovated the building, and opened the theater.
A former nemesis of second-run theatres — the DVD player — has become a useful tool for Steffian and Kamil, as they employ a digital projector instead of a clicking old reel to reel.
“The quality you get on a projected DVD is in my opinion better than old film prints,” said Kamil. “There is a certain nostalgia to the projection of film.”
Because of the affordability and convenience of home viewing, the idea behind the Revival House has met with its share of skeptics. But Steffian feels that the combined appeal of different films and atmosphere actually adds to the movie-going experience.
“A guy said to me recently, ‘Why should I come here?' and I said, (gestures to the lobby) ‘This',” said Steffian. “We also have a big screen, which I don't think you have at home.”
In addition, says Kamil, “we're providing an alternative to the sterile big box multiplex.”
Concurring is Revival House regular Jennifer Stich, a 37-year-old photo studio worker from Westerly, who feels that the ideal way to watch movies is on a big screen.
“Movies are meant to be seen this way, not on TV with KFC commercials,” she said.
The weekly program features three films by a particular director or actor. Kamil and Steffian feel they can offer a peek at a lesser known picture by packaging it around something slightly more familiar.
Steffian cites their week of Stanley Kubrick movies that sandwiched “Paths of Glory” in between “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “The Shining.”
The new year will also see the debut of their actors series, where movies featuring current stars such as Julianne Moore and Johnny Depp will mingle with those from legendary figures such as Sidney Poitier and Elizabeth Taylor.
Nostalgia is also playing an important role in attracting people to the Revival House. Steffian said that Westerly natives have fond memories of the Wayfarer, a popular establishment that also mixed potables and motion pictures.
“One of our best advertisers has been the past, actually,” said Steffian. “If the Wayfarer hadn't been here, people wouldn't understand what we're doing.”
Yet, it is just that sort of connection that small-town denizens in the region have to their community where Steffian and Kamil feel that they have found a niche.
“You can go to the casinos and have that huge experience,” said Steffian. “But we are in small communities and (the Revival House) represents that.”
If You Go:
WHAT: Revival House
WHERE: 42-46 High St., Westerly
WHEN: Screenings at 8 p.m. Tues.-Sun. and at 4 p.m. Sat. and Sun.; cafe hours 4-11 p.m.
FOR MORE INFO: (401) 315-2770 or www.revivalhouse.net
© The Day Publishing Co., 2004
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