It Just Might Work: Art-house on Tate Street

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by Daniel WirtheimDaniel

Addam’s University Bookstore closed in March of last year, after a 25-year run. To anyone who remembers Maya or Design Archives (maybe even Fridays), the blank marquee sign stands as sort of an unmarked grave for a golden era of Tate Street, before such bland corporate chains as Chipotle or East Coast Wings moved in. Tate Street could use another cultural renaissance, and that’s why I propose that someone turn the failed art-supply and bookstore back into a cinema.

326 Tate Street, where Addam’s once operated, debuted as the Victory Theatre in 1942. By the mid-1980s, when it finally closed as House of Pizza-Cinema, the property had gone through several names and owners. What I gathered from this is that there’s not a lot of profit to be made in art-house cinemas.

This would be a job for a group of young investors and dreamers who are ready to go up against the odds. What these intrepid investors need to know is that the property is there, the market is probably there and 326 Tate Street is still for sale.

To set themselves apart from the online-streaming industry, they would have to pitch their venue as a multi-use facility, incorporating theater or music. It would be a community space, and why couldn’t they get some of their funding through the community?

Today, crowdsourcing is as popular as zombie films or quinoa. With a built-in audience of nearby college students and recent grads, garnering at least some community funding shouldn’t be a problem. The spirit of any cinema on Tate Street would have to be community-oriented.

Professors would give extra credit to students who attended a New German Cinema Week; students of media and art would have a venue to screen their projects for the public; theater kids would have a space to perform and direct the work of B-listed playwrights that are too avant-garde for the University’s theatre.

Making an art-house cinema sustainable would be the hardest part. The most viable option for getting the cinema running would be to get a third party involved, someone who has experience doing this type of thing — preferably with some capital.

What we can’t forget is that, in this particular decade, cinema goes beyond novelty. Like vinyl records, an art-house cinema has a timeless charm that moviegoers are beginning to notice missing from big-time cinemas and home entertainment systems. There’s a market for this stuff, and there’s an empty building just waiting to be transformed back into a cinema.

  • Filmcriticwife

    Unfortunately, there isn’t a market in Greensboro for art-house cinema, retro cinema, or any cinema that isn’t at your local multiplex. The key element unmentioned in the article is the cost of obtaining the rights, or license, to screen a film, and the trouble one can run into by not paying that licensing fee to the studio. We tried this idea at The Crown at The Carolina Theatre that has state of the art film screening equipment. After four consecutive film series, we were told that if the overall series ended, no one would notice. Obviously this writer and the community and Carolina Theatre in general didn’t notice or support what was proposed in your article and was already in place in Greensboro without the enormous expenditure being suggested for Adams Bookstore’s space.