The Rep (2012) – Morgan White

The communal experience of movie-going, of settling in to watch an old favorite on the big screen where it belongs, with other people who love it as much as you, and people who are being introduced to it for the first time.

I own my favorite movie, Jaws (in case you haven’t been following the blog) on blu-ray AND dvd, but every time it shows on the big screen… at the Lightbox, at the Cineplex hosted Digital Film Fest, I will see it.

And I’m not the only one. The Digital Film Fest does insanely well, the Lightbox retrospectives do fantastic business…

But single screen theaters, like the Toronto Underground Cinema (now closed) who specialize in repertory cinema flounder and fall, because people aren’t coming out.

The Rep looks at these cinemas all over North America, but especially the Toronto Underground, following the trials and tribulations of its three partners Nigel Agnew, Charlile Lawton and Alex Woodside.

Even starting with the best of intentions, the trio are up against the wall from the get-go, in an age when everyone has a home-theater system, most people cannot be enticed out for an evening at a cinema to see a movie they already own (they aren’t all like me).

But as mentioned, you lose the communal experience and that is one of the best things the repertory theaters have to offer. As long as they can find (and afford) the right films to show. Not to mention paying bills like rent, employees, concessions… It all piles up pretty quick.

toronto_undergroundcinema.jpeg.size.xxlarge.letterboxBut this plight isn’t confined to this treasured theater, no, there are rep theaters all over North America, all of them showing classic films, and all of them, sadly, sinking.

The communal experience of a shared film is a powerful experience, and it’s always amazing watching a classic on the big screen, with a mix of those who love it and those who’ve never seen it. There are folks who say that it needs to be film, but I’ve always believed that if I’m seeing it on the big screen, I want to see it in the possible manner, which, currently is digital. I get that there are purists who will disagree with me on that point.

But the folks of all the reps and I will agree that some movies just need to be seen on the big screen. We also share the love of movies.

The Rep is a wonderful documentary, poignant, funny, filled with grief, and hope, as the struggle to save these beautiful single screen theaters that stand as testimony to the wonderful world of cinema.

You can’t help but feel sorry for the three lads who run the Underground, because it constantly seems like a battle they cannot win, their passion keeps them going, but you can feel the frustration and you empathize.

Because yes, people are still watching movies, but they are so missing the shared experience that comes from sitting in a darkened theater together, enjoying something for the first or the 100th time.

The Rep shows that these old cinema houses are just as important landmarks in terms of culture and society as libraries, and we should do our best to help them thrive.

Go to a classic movie, and take all your friends!

The Rep opens today.


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