When Marsha Orgeron and her husband, Devin, decided to relocate to Raleigh, they took a good hard look at the cinema scene. But the Orgerons aren't your ordinary movie buffs--both are film scholars who had recently completed their Ph.D. training in College Park, Md. "We were coming from one of the major film hubs and we feel really lucky to have ended up here," Marsha Orgeron says. "Compared to so much of the country, this is really a hotbed."
After a year in the Triangle, attending movies and teaching film in the English department at N.C. State University, the Orgerons are now making their contributions to the local microcinema scene. In conjunction with Raleigh's Bickett Gallery, they've programmed an eclectic five-week mix of local shorts and music-themed films for 23 Hours (www.23hours.org). With this program, the Orgerons are joining an already vibrant club film scene. Raleigh's Glitter Films (glitterfilms.tripod.com) has been showing wild shorts at Kings Barcade for years now and will launch a new season in September; meanwhile, over in Carrboro on Sept. 2, Flicker (www.chapel-hill.nc.us/flicker) and its curator Jen Ashlock will kick off another year of lo-fi filmed entertainment at Cat's Cradle.
And, as the Orgerons discovered to their evident delight, there are 18 art-house screens in Raleigh, Cary, Durham and Chapel Hill, which is enough to serve a couple of hip Manhattan neighborhoods. Of course, they're a bit spread out here, but the pickings can be quite tasty. New in Raleigh? Be sure to check out the Rialto on Glenwood Avenue, conveniently located near various Five Points bars and cafe's for after-movie nightcaps. John Munson's old-fashioned, single-screen theater (and its giant marquee) has withstood the subdividing, razing and homogenization that has consumed so much of the nation's movie-going experience. Most programming at the Rialto (and its sister theater, the Colony, located on Six Forks Road) features the latest foreign and independent releases. And every Friday at midnight at the Rialto, their print of Rocky Horror Picture Show is released from the crypt. Also at the Rialto, on the second Sunday of every month, the area's oldest film society, Cinema Inc. (www.cinema-inc.org) hosts an eclectic array of films, recent and old, domestic and foreign. Note, however, that their series requires a season subscription that usually sells out prior to the series' beginning, so hurry!
A year ago, the good people of Cary got their own art house--and then some. The Madstone Theater (www.madstonetheaters.com), part of a small national chain, aims to provide the choices, amenities and parking of the multiplex in the service of the small, the quirky, and the foreign. In a single year, Madstone publicist Barbara Kingsbury has made a name for the theater with consistently adventurous programming and imaginative publicity campaigns. The Carolina Courage women's soccer team made personal appearances on behalf of Bend it Like Beckham, and academic experts have lectured on topics ranging from migratory birds to the political convulsions of the Middle East. Madstone has also initiated the Insider's Screening Club, a sort of cinematic potluck in which members buy a season pass and get to see a "mystery movie" every few weeks. Moderated discussions follow, and they can get rancorous. Madstone has also tapped into the area's large South Asian community by bringing in those famed three-hour musical extravaganzas known from Cary to Calcutta as Bollywood movies.
Durham's cinematic stronghold continues to be the Carolina Theatre, downtown on Morgan Street (www.carolinatheatre.org). In addition to the regular programming, the Carolina plays host to several vital film festivals. Earlier this month, programming director Jim Carl curated the N.C. Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which in screening 98 films in five days set a new standard for the fest's visibility and importance. Look to the Carolina for the big fests: the N.C. Jewish Film Festival in February and the renowned Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in April. Once a month, the Carolina (and during the summer months, the Starlite Drive-In) hosts the popular Retrofantasma series in which vintage horror schlock is played for large, appreciative crowds. In January, Christopher Lee fans flock to the Carolina for the Nevermore Film Festival. And this July, the Carolina added another soon-to-be-annual event with the sold-out edition of the Colored Pictures fest.
Durham is also the epicenter of the area's penchant for documentary filmmaking: The Center for Documentary Studies provides training for filmmakers and programs a consistently fascinating array of films, often with the filmmakers present. Be sure to check their Web site this fall for news of their annual documentary Happening (cds.aas.duke.edu). Also, nascent women filmmakers shouldn't miss this winter's Ms. Films (www.msfilms.org), a wildly successful workshop and festival.
Durham also boasts the area's best campus film society in the form of Duke's Freewater Presentations (www.duke.edu/ web/duu/freewaterpres.htm), which programs a mixture of second-run art house films and thematically-arranged classics. Elsewhere on the Duke campus, the Screen Society (www.duke.edu/web/film/screensociety) has demonstrated a penchant for getting attention--last spring they created a ruckus with a series entitled "Reel Evil: Films from the Axis of Evil," with the piece de resistance consisting of the American premiere of 11.9.01, the omnibus film that presented an international perspective on the terrorist attacks.
But nothing beats Chapel Hill for indie film options--such infinite cinematic riches in a little town! There are six screens spread across three art houses: the Varsity and the Carolina downtown and the Chelsea at Timberlyne Shopping Center to the north. Proprietor Bruce Stone keeps a steady rotation going--he'll take chances on quirky titles like Morvern Callar and Rivers and Tides while keeping crowd-pleasers such as Bend it Like Beckham available for the long haul. He also opens his theaters for special screenings of locally produced films, as well as hosting programs of each spring's Hi Mom! Film Festival (www.himomfilmfestival.org).
And no discussion of Triangle movie-going is complete without mentioning nationally celebrated local treasure Skip Elsheimer, otherwise known as A/V Geeks. Elsheimer has been delighting kitsch enthusiasts for years with his fabled collection of vintage educational films. This fall, he'll bring his shows to Triangle venues where he'll spotlight selections from his upcoming DVD. Keep up with his upcoming shows at www.avgeeks.com.