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By Tater Barley Banks | Comment Diversions | September 11, 2010 |

By Tater Barley Banks | Comment Diversions | September 11, 2010 |

With one last midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and a Sunday slate that included The Kids Are Alright, the second-run/offbeat downtown movie theater in my college town closed last weekend, probably for good, leaving us at the mercy of the two 12-screen megaplexes that show the same five movies.

There will be those people who mourn the passing of The Warner with an “If I only I had gone more often … if only I’d eaten more popcorn.”

I’m not really one of them. I probably went about as often as I should have, which was about as often as they’d roll in an interesting doc (the last two movies I saw there were Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work and The Wild, Wonderful Whites of West Virginia). I figure this is Godtopus’ way of telling me to finally join NetFlix.

Besides, it wouldn’t have made much difference. The theater was in a 1930s-era art deco building that was not aging gracefully. Here, courtesy of our newspaper, The Dominion Post, is the economic reality I’m guessing most such old theaters trying to survive in small towns face:

“But, Riddle said, issues continued to arise with everything from old pipes to the out-dated heating system and electrical wiring and, most recently, the air-conditioning unit.

“‘I don’t have enough time to go through all the things,’ she said, ‘It’s a lot … It’s expensive stuff to fix, very expensive.’

“‘The place has good bones, it’s just that you can’t begin to keep up with the on-going issues.’

“Especially, she said, when ‘we’re excited if we get 40-50 patrons in one night.’”

Now I admit I think it’s pretty cool when you’re the only person in the theater and you can move around if you want or yell at the screen, which has happened to me there more than once, but in my heart I knew that running a theater for one guy wasn’t a very good business model. The newspaper story quotes one of the theater’s six part-time employees as saying they had shows when nobody showed up.

Here’s what else the theater was up against:

“While the Warner is known for showing independent releases, foreign films and second-runs, it rarely, if ever, shows blockbusters when they debut.

“”I have been working with the same booking agent for the past six years,’ Riddle said. ‘And he fights tooth and nail to get a copy.’

“She explained that movie production companies produce a finite number of copies of their films. The copies are shipped to theaters across the country. With three movie theaters in Morgantown, there’s not usually enough to go around.

“‘They’re never going to give a film to me, before they give it to those guys,’ she said. ‘I only control one theater. {Carmike and Hollywood] are nationwide.’”

The Warner closed once before, before an organization called Round Table Corp. bought the building six years ago and reopened it, so maybe there’s hope a white knight will come along and make it happen again, but that hope seems remote.

I’m not sure there’s much a diversion in this, I’m just posting it because the passing of one more indie theater shouldn’t go unnoticed in the wider world, and maybe there’ll be some inspiration here for you to patronize your own indie a bit more before it too passes into the dustbin of history.

But if you want to use this thread to lament the passing of your own stuff that’s not there anymore, feel free.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.