Last of the Independents

Red Vic
The Red Vic has an unlikely history for an art house. It was founded 16 years ago in 1980 by a six-person collective who came out of a political canvassing organization, Citizen's Action League. "We wanted to start a business as a collective, and we all liked movies, so ...," founder Gary Aaronson explains. These days, only Aaronson and Martha Beck remain from the original group, and the theater has moved a block down the street from its original location. It's now a 140-capacity affair whose flat floor and unadorned screen won't be confused with a palace, but is adequate for its job, which is to show odd movies to people who like them.

They've added 35mm projection equipment and Dolby, changes that "we're still paying for," says Aaronson. Being a collective means that profits are plowed back into the business, but every member of the group has a say over how the business is run. For instance, the group decides on programming, which accounts for the aforementioned eclecticism. "We are five people with very different ideas," says Aaronson. What works and what doesn't is discovered through trial and error, though when the going gets tough, the group can always fall back on old standbys. Harold and Maude always pays for itself.

Newer films that have emerged as staples for the Red Vic are The City of Lost Children and Baraka. In every schedule, says Aaronson, there are movies that surprise the group with their success. It pays to pick up a schedule and look for those surprises.

-- Kathleen Maher

 
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