Like indie record stores, local breweries, and all the moms and pops in between, it is generally understood that local independent movie theaters are cool.
Still, it’s important to remember just why.
Imagine your younger cousins are visiting you from out of town. And not the cool ones who don’t listen to the Foo Fighters. They’re dying to see Twilight: The High School Musical 3-D at AMC Bqoston Commons, and you can’t seem to convince them that a night at the Brattle Theatre would be—
“So, so much more badass.”
“Really? My phone says it only has, like, one theater.”
Not so convincing. Maybe next time you can tell Kelly that while she’s getting an $8 cherry-flavored brain freeze and watching Kristen Stewart frown through a pair of unanimously unflattering 3-D glasses they don’t even let you keep, that some super cool chick is drinking Pretty Things and kicking back to a marathon of bloody Korean gangster films.
And that’s not just at the Brattle. There’s the Coolidge, Harvard Film Archive, Kendall Square Cinema, the Somerville Theatre—you could be living in worse places than Boston. Just visit any one of these cozy, creative little theaters and you’re likely to catch anything from a local film festival to the midnight screening of a savory cult classic that isn’t The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Every other Monday, for instance, the Brattle hosts the DocYard series, a celebration of independent documentary filmmaking that often features a Q&A with the directors (the Dig writers are big fans). This kind of event—I mean everything about it—doesn’t happen anywhere outside of an independent theater. Take it from the Brattle’s creative director Ned Hinkle:
“If you like movies that are outside of the mainstream, or films that might not be given a chance at a big chain theater, then independent movie theaters are the place.”
It doesn’t stop with the films either. Local theaters offer a unique insight into the neighborhoods they’re built in, which is perfect for visitors or the many lazy residents who still say they want to “get to know the city.”
Take Brookline, home to one of the strongest Jewish communities in New England, where each year the Coolidge Corner Theater hosts the Boston Jewish Film Festival, screening shorts, docs, and feature films from around the world. The Coolidge even caters to the Allston kids down the road with midnight screenings of cult films like Wet Hot American Summer and Maniac.
Indie theaters are also good for other local businesses, and a good way for visitors to discover them. “We’ll always tell people to go places,” says Hinkle at the Brattle,
“because we’re kind of all in it together. We’re just trying to support each other.”
And let’s not forget the beer. I’ll be the first to admit, sneaking a pint of grain alcohol into a Jackass movie has its own charm. But now that more indie theaters are carrying alcohol, they’re able to support local beers, which taste better—much better—and won’t get you thrown out by grumpy, glowstick-toting ushers
There are many ways to support indie theaters—memberships, volunteer work, and donations are a few. “But honestly,” Hinkle says, “it’s all about getting butts in seats. The best way is just to come.”