The Triangle's exponential population growth and development over the past decade, coupled with our ubiquitous university amenities and collegiate culture, has spawned a unique boon for local filmgoers--a thriving (sometimes contentious) coexistence between burgeoning multiplexes and an abundant assortment of art-house alternatives unavailable even in larger regional markets like Charlotte and Nashville.
That said, here is a year's worth of Triangle movie mojo, enough to satisfy cinephiles and cinephytes alike: Year-round Want to see a movie... for free... before it comes out?
Roughly 75 to 80 percent of all major films are screened for Triangle audiences at least once prior to their release date in order to build advance buzz for the film. Most are screened here only once, although some are shown several times anytime from a week to a month prior to their release. Host theaters vary from film to film.
Screening aficionados routinely peruse the usual periodicals and electronic media outlets each week for updates on upcoming advance screenings and where to obtain passes (often area businesses or the media partners themselves). They can also go online to www.CHUD.com, a film-related Web site that lists upcoming screenings by city and randomly distributes passes to registered users.
Each pass is good for you and one guest, but studios distribute more passes than there are seats to help guarantee a full house, so arriving early (at least a half-hour before the movie starts) is essential in order to guarantee admittance.
On Sept. 12, Raleigh's oldest film society, The Cinema Inc., starts a new season. A $20 membership entitles you to enjoy 12 classic features at the Rialto Theatre, one on the second Sunday of every month (www.cinema-inc.org).
Dinner and a movie? How about dinner with your movie? Raleighwood is a locally owned and operated theater that affords patrons the chance to enjoy a flick while dining on burgers and pizza. This local favorite is at 6609 Falls of the Neuse Road in Raleigh (www.raleighwoodmovies.com).
November & December 2004
I'll admit it--I like gigantic screens, stadium seating and choose-your-acronym audio as much as the next guy. But movie awards-season (November through February) is the best time of the year to start venturing out into the realm of the art-houses.
In Raleigh, Bill Peebles' theater collective is anchored by the Rialto on Glenwood Avenue. This grand dame of Five Points hasn't lost any of its charm over the years, and it has an open bar. Its sister theater is the duel-screen Colony, located on Six Forks Road, also featuring independent and foreign releases.
Durham boasts perhaps the most beautiful, opulent movie auditorium in the Triangle--the Carolina Theatre, downtown on Morgan Street (www.carolinatheatre.org). Make sure to catch a showing inside the gorgeous Cinema One and, when available, the ornate Fletcher Hall.
Bruce Stone's three Chapel Hill theaters are among the town's many riches. The Varsity is a local institution, denoted by its prominent marquee that protrudes into the heart of Franklin Street. Less than a block away is the Carolina. And, the postage-stamp sized Chelsea, at Timberlyne Shopping Center, hosts many indie releases you may never find anywhere else in the area.
The N.C. Museum of Art's Winter Film Series starts Jan. 7. Every Friday night at 8 p.m. through April 1, film curator Laura Boyes (aka "the moviediva") will host a diverse schedule that tentatively includes revival premieres of several new prints, including Fellini's I Vitteloni and the original Japanese version of Godzilla; Marlon Brando highlights; two pristine prints of Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt and Saboteur, compliments of the Library of Congress; a silent film with live musical accompaniment; and much more (www.ncartmuseum.org).
Ghosts and goblins invade the Carolina Theatre in Durham for the Sixth Annual Nevermore Horror, Gothic, & Fantasy Film Festival, a lineup of first-run (and often obscure) horror, gothic and fantasy movies. Many of the movies won't be seen again in North Carolina (or the United States), so catch them while you can--if you dare! (www.carolinatheatre.org/nevermore)
Durham's Carolina Theatre hosts the Seventh Annual N.C. Jewish Film Festival, spotlighting films from Israel and around the globe as a means toward sharing Jewish culture and fostering an understanding with the non-Jewish community. Log onto www.carolinatheatre.org/ncjff for details.
Although not inside the Triangle, no local cinematic tour would be complete without a jaunt to Graham Cinema (119 N. Main St., Graham). This vintage, 350-plus seat movie house, complete with balcony, is one of the last old-style theaters. Now showing second-run films, be sure to call 336-226-1488 for showtimes and laughs, compliments of owner Tim Matthews' infamous outgoing messages.
Durham is the home of the country's largest documentary film festival and, frankly, one of the best film festivals, period. The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival will return April 1-10 in and around the Carolina Theatre. Last year's festival was the biggest ever, featuring 66 films in competition and another 30 as part of curated and invited programs. Featured attendees included Elaine Stritch, Harry Shearer, Ken Burns and Michael Moore (www.fullframefest.org).
It's back to the N.C. Museum of Art for their Movies on the Lawn series, which runs until late August and features a mix of classics and box office behemoths shown on the outdoor big screen. A popular tradition, you'd be well advised to show up at least an hour before showtime in order to find a good spot, enjoy a picnic dinner, and soak up the atmosphere.
Summer's the time to take it outside. Let's hope that the Triangle's only drive-in theater, the Starlite Drive-In & Flea Market, 2523 E. Club Blvd. in Durham, has been able to rebuild its screen, which burned to the ground last week.
Lumina Park Theatre, 620 Market St. in Chapel Hill, also boasts outdoor movies, running weekends from mid-May through September. Viewers are encouraged to bring a picnic basket and blanket.
The Carolina Theatre hopes to host the Third Annual Colored Pictures Short Film Festival, a showcase of films by and about people of color (www.coloredpictures.com).
It's back to the Carolina Theatre in Durham for the 10th Annual N.C. Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, one of the largest and most acclaimed gay and lesbian film festivals in the country. Features and short films are intermixed with various outreach programs and an Apres-Fest the week following the weekend festival (www.carolinatheatre.org/ncglff).