Does the new location retain all the feel of the old?
By Anne Gould Northgraves
After two years of feeling at home in the tiny previous Cinemapolis locales at the Commons alley and Fall Creek, when Cinemapolis moved into its new home on East Green Street, it naturally made me nostalgic. Will the new building compare to the old in terms of my movie-going experience?
How I experience films is very important to me. Personally, there is no way I would rather see a movie than in a theater.
Between the ticket prices and my lack of free time, I don’t see that many films in theaters, but it is still the best. Sitting in front of a tiny TV or computer screen can’t replicate the communal yet personal experience of sitting in the dark, immersed in the huge scenes playing out before me. And the individual theater is important, too. It is very different seeing a film at a mammoth chain theater than it is going to a boutique venue.
That is why Ithaca is so great. We have the Regal at the Shops at Ithaca if we need to see the latest blockbusters, but we have Cinemapolis and Cornell Cinema for smaller, independent films that I would never get a chance to see at home, where all we have are Shocases, AMCs and Regals.
The new Cinemapolis building is nice for a variety of reasons. Its mere presence is a testament to Cinemapolis’ relevance and importance in this community. Not every independent, non-prophet theater can say as much, especially in this economy. Also, now all five screens run by the 7th Art Corporation, previously split between two locations, are in one complex. They range from an intimate theater of less than 50 seats to a more accommodating 100 plus seats. Overall, it is a beautiful new building that more people can now enjoy.
But I cannot help but miss the little things about the old Cinemapolis location that made it so unique. While the new theater is bigger, brighter, and cleaner there was an endearing sketchiness about going through a big metal door in the middle of an alleyway, like walking through a wardrobe into a new world. Except there was no lamppost or lions, only the sweet smell of popcorn wafting up through the stairwell.
After going down into the bowels of the building, there was the collage-covered hallways, comprised of old movie posters and stills from ancient Lumiere films. The new Cinemapolis honors this with a sponge-painted mural in the lobby. While that is beautiful in its own right, the fun I had trying to guess the films from the snippets of posters in the old hallway cannot be duplicated.
What I liked most about the previous incarnation was how personal it felt. The close quarters and secluded location made me feel as if I was discovering this little gem anew every time I went. Obviously I was not the only person who knew the joys of Cinemapolis, but the out-of-the-way place made each trip to see a film exciting. Now, there is a more homogenous vibe, with a more traditional, chain theater design. However, if the more visible location gets more people to see exceptional small films that deserve the attention, then that is a very good thing.
Cinemapolis is still one of my favorite places to go in Ithaca. The friendly faces are still there; the wonderful little gems are still playing on the screens, and the sense of joy in supporting the local community and art house films remains. But I still miss the little theater, tucked away in a corner of the Commons that, despite its small size, made my love for cinema grow even more.
Anne Gould Northgraves is a junior cinema and photography major. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.