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Old-School Theater A Ticket To Movie Magic

John Michael Mason

March 10, 2010

I spend almost every Friday evening the same way. I leave my room, walk down the stairs and out the door, and turn right. Thirty seconds later I arrive at what appears to be the entrance to a chemistry building. I push open the doors, step inside and find myself not in a classroom, but in a movie theater.

And I don't mean some cramped, sticky-floored, cinder block place stuck in a shopping mall. This is Cinestudio, just a stone's throw from the center of Trinity College's campus in Hartford. The single-screen theater presents a unique, intimate viewing experience that is unrivaled by common movie theater chains across the country. From the balcony, there is a good view of the re-created 1930s-style film house with deep red walls, signature lion symbol and spectacular gold Austrian shade curtain that rises before each showing.

Known to the region's movie aficionados for its large screen and 70mm film projection capability, the 500-seat Cinestudio is as likely to be showing "Casablanca" as it is to be showing "Lord of the Rings."

And yet, Trinity's students seem to be for the most part unaware of the gem on their campus. Ask one of them hurrying to class where you can find Cinestudio, and you may be surprised to discover they don't know where it is. Or, more likely, they can point you in the right direction but confess to having never seen a movie there themselves. They don't know what they are missing.

For 40 years, the nonprofit theater has resided here, run by James Hanley and Peter McMorris, who founded it as students in 1970. It has a rich history of showing controversial films, debuting cult classics and bringing a mix of independent movies and mainstream pictures to the campus and to the greater Hartford community.

In a technological age with a struggling economy, however, it has become increasingly difficult to entice students and community members to leave their living rooms and pay money to see a movie. In the fast-paced, tech-savvy society of today, Cinestudio is competing with companies like Netflix, which deliver movies to your door, and with the infinite assets of the Internet, also allow them to be instantly downloaded to your laptop. It is gradually becoming archaic to invest time and money on a trip to the cinema.

But is this not how movies should be viewed on a big screen, with a 70mm projector, amplified by a powerful sound system, in a theater with fellow moviegoers excited to join you on a cinematic adventure? There is a certain magic in a classic movie theater when the lights dim, the curtain rises and the opening credits start to roll. The atmosphere in Cinestudio creates this magic.

That feeling is lost while sitting on a couch watching a DVD, with light from the kitchen shining in and noise from video games in the next room drowning out the television.

For two years, I have delighted in watching a movie at Cinestudio every weekend. From Hollywood blockbusters, independent documentaries and classic foreign films to animated shorts, each week Cinestudio delivers a refreshing blend of movies like no other theater in the country. My only regret is that there haven't been more viewers there to share the experience with me.

Saturday, Cinestudio will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a screening of Oscar nominee "Up in the Air." The anniversary looks to be a celebration of the past, and an opportunity to get excited about the future of Cinestudio. Students on campus, who volunteer at Cinestudio, are eager to reinvigorate the theater and reach out to the community. We aim to keep the prospects of Cinestudio planted firmly on the ground ... not "up in the air."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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