Sunday, December 5, 2010

New vision for the Uptown... an (ad-free, community-friendly) introduction

First, apologies for being absent this past week.  I'm still here, I still want to run the Uptown, and I still intend to post updates to this blog.

One thing that has caught my attention in talking about this to people, is that several people have asked me, in essence, "why?"  Why do I want to run the Uptown?  Why does Seattle need another Movie venue?  What's the point?

Well, there are a number of reasons for my interest in doing this.  And over the coming days, weeks, months, I intend to share at least many of them with you here.

I think it's important to point out that this is something that I've been dreaming of doing since long before the recent closure of the Uptown.  So it's not at all just that the doors closed, and I want them back open.  That was just the precipitating factor for me to actually put some effort into making it happen -- because without doing so, I risk having nothing in that spot, and that's worse than what was already there.

Which seems to imply that what was already there was bad already, if nothing is "worse", right?  Well, yes and no.  It's less that it was bad, than that I had vision for how it could be better.

First, let me go ahead and put out there my rough-draft version of a mission statement:
To create and sustain a community-centric movie theatre in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, at the historic Uptown Cinema building.
That's what I'm going for, in a nut-shell.  But perhaps that doesn't really answer the question.  So, let's talk a little about what I imagine seeing there.  There are a number of ways I could approach this.  Having thought about it a bit, the way I've decided I'd like to approach it is in a sort of story-telling manner.  So, here goes:

In ages past, and perhaps even today, in corners more remote, there was this thing called "community".  People talked to each other, knew their neighbors, shared ideas, created things together.  And sometimes they feuded -- with familiarity can come fondness, but also it can breed contempt.  But they knew each other.  They talked.  Or if they didn't talk, it was out of a specific animosity, rather than indifference.  They had time to interact, and they used that time to do so.

Along comes modern society... This "connected" society, and we seem rarely to interact with the people next to us.  Instead, we stare at advertisements, mesmerized, and don't say a word (until, in some cases, we get to the check-out counter, to purchase the advertised item, and are "forced" to interact with the sales clerk).  And in modern movie theatres, it's gotten pretty bad.  Where once there were "trailers" -- previews for other movies -- now there are advertisements for all manner of things: from the soft drinks and pop corn they want you to buy at the concession stand, for 1200% more than the cost of such things, to the automobiles that they want you to arrive to the theatre in.

Until one day, in one small way, someone decides to make a difference.  They open up a new movie theatre.  Well, really, it's an old movie theatre, just opened under a new vision.

There are no ads.  Not even ads for other movies that are coming.  Perhaps there's an announcements board somewhere, so that those wanting to know what's coming have a manner of finding out, but when you come in to see a film, all you see is film -- perhaps there are appetizers in the form of short films related to the main feature, but it's still film.  It's still art.

And the art is respected -- the house lights stay low until the last of the credits has rolled off the screen, and the projection isn't interrupted, even if it seems everybody has walked out from that, because, well, the credits are so frequently so long, what with film productions being such a major endeavor these days.

Though hopefully the audience stays in their seats, or gets up only to make the quick trip to the WC that they've been needing to make, only to return presently, for the post-film discussion -- perhaps with the director, especially if it happens to be a local film, or perhaps with just a facilitator, encouraging audience members to share thoughts, perhaps sharing thoughts from previous audiences of the same film.

People talk, they mingle, they communicate.  And if they come regularly, they get to know each other.

In this new theatre, they've found a place to breed a sense of community.  Community that extends, then, outside these walls.  The end is just the beginning...

The above is a small tidbit of my vision for things.  Is it realistic?  Who knows?  I certainly don't expect everything from the above to happen right off the bat.  But that's not the point of vision, is it?  It's not to see what will be tomorrow, but what could be, off in the more distant future, and thus to lead the taking of steps in that direction, so that perhaps one day that distant future can be arrived at.

And this is just one way I imagine the future could be, if I was running the Uptown Cinemas.

There are many more stories to tell.  I expect I'll be posting periodically under the "vision" tag.  I hope you'll comment on these stories -- both pro and con -- and help me both to shape my vision, and to motivate it.

More to come.

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