“Movie Houses of Worship” is a regular feature spotlighting our favorite movie theaters around the world, those that are like temples of cinema catering to the most religious-like film geeks. This week, reader Patrick Costello highlights one of his favorite theaters. His comments are those quoted. If you’d like to suggest or submit a place you regularly worship at the altar of cinema, please email our weekend editor.
Opened: 1903, as “The Colonial Opera House” — the first stage show was held September 5th and the first film program shown December 19th. After changing ownership through the decades and then a few years out of commission in the 1990s, it was restored and re-opened on October 1, 1999.
No. of screens: 1
Current first-run titles: None, although they are currently showing the Oscar-nominated shorts (including the documentaries, which screen tomorrow night) and screen second-run films like This is Not a Film, which is showing this afternoon. And Silver Linings Playbook begins on February 15.
Repertory programming: Much of The Colonial’s programming is repertory, and while some films are shown on Blu-ray since prints are harder and harder to come by, they do try to show 35mm when they can. This afternoon they’re showing To Catch a Thief in 35mm, for example. Their documentary series, held every Sunday, is typically Blu-ray and their regular Mystery Science Theater 3000 nights employ DVDs. Other film prints being shown this month include True Romance, North by Northwest, The Trouble With Harry and Psycho. Candyman was shown the other night in 35mm as part of their First Friday Fright Night series, and yesterday they showed Groundhog Day on film, as well.
Special Events: The theater is still used for live events, such as the upcoming concerts by John Mayall and comedienne Paula Poundstone. Also very popular are the annual Blobfest (held in July; see the next section) and the members-only Oscar party, the latter of which is coming up.
Why I worship here: “First and foremost, this is the theater that the Blob overtook in the Steve McQueen version of The Blob. Because of this, every summer they hold Blobfest, which is a weekend of 35 mm Blob screenings, parties, and events such as a staged evacuation, like in the film. This theater is also incredibly impressive with their bookings. I alone have watched Jaws, They Live, Grindhouse, Black Christmas, Let the Right One In, Re-Animator, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and so many other favorites, all on film. They usually run cult horror on Friday nights, classics on Sundays, and arthouse throughout the week. As well as selling original prints at their shows, which have been improving incredibly. I just purchased a print for They Live, which rivals Alamo Drafthouse prints, in my opinion. So check it out!”
Recent screening of note: See the previous section for past screenings Patrick attended. Here, instead, he highlights some future screenings of note: “I’m currently looking forward to The Blues Brothers, and an entire month dedicated to Alfred Hitchcock. And I’m personally not one for Mystery Science Theater, but they keep a great consistency with that series, as well as occasional live riffing from Joel Hodgson.”
Devotion to the concessions: As noted in the theater’s general FAQ, they serve “traditional” movie theater concessions and no alcohol.
Last word: “I would like to say that the theater is run mostly by volunteers. It’s inspiring to see a bunch of film geeks presenting either films that I love or films that I need to see, in the right format, for no serious compensation other than the experience. These people frequent similar Philadelphia film events that I do, and I’ve had some words with a few of them over the course of the last five years. With the way film is looked at these days, these guys are a strong reminder of how things should be. Especially compared to the ugly, misshapen, glitchy digital projections that I run at my job. The frequency of quality movies being played is high.”
Patrick Costello used to thread film at a local Regal and now does the digital projection at the Movie Tavern. He is also the co-owner of Junk Cinema Productions, and their first feature film is moving through pre-production. “Hopefully it will be seen in a festival coming soon,” he says, “and receive wild reviews from sites like this.”
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