the spirit of the times
AFFILIATION: Independently owned and operated, thanks in part to the support of Belcourt Theatre Inc. (formerly Belcourt YES!), a not-for-profit organization that helped to reopen the theater (see thorough history lesson below).
SPECIAL SKILLS: 16mm outdoor showings (against the side of the theater), special posters designed by Sam Smith (see more on that below)
DCP ? : Aside from the occasional BluRay, it’s all film at the Belcourt. “For now, we are not rushing to install the new equipment. The digital kinks – and there are many - are still in the process of working themselves out,” said Belcourt program director Toby Leonard.
FIRST ZEITGEIST MOVIE: “Taste of Cherry,” June 5, 1998
PRICE OF A SMALL POPCORN: $4
The beautiful Belcourt Theatre in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, began its life as a silent movie house called The Hillsboro Theater in 1925 that had the largest stage in the city. It also housed the Children’s Theater of Nashville, and The Grand Ole Opry through the 1930s. By 1937, The Belcourt stage could flexibly show both film and live theater, and did so until it returned to showing films exclusively in 1966.
The theater thrived for nearly 30 years as a family owned operation, but with increasing pressures from mall multiplexes, the theater faltered in 1999, and was ultimately forced to close. The not-for-profit grassroots group Belcourt YES! (now Belcourt Theatre Inc), a group dedicated to the preservation and successful operation of the theater, formed though the theater reopened in 2000. Founding YES! member Thomas Wills bought the theater outright in 2003, and sold it back to the board of directors for its exact purchase price in 2007.
The Belcourt now shows first run films as well as repertory and special outdoor screenings—the theater lugs a 16mm projector and PA outside for these special showings. If that’s not enough to get you through the door, there’s local draft beers (plus wine and liquor) waiting for you in the lobby, along with local cookies and chocolates. Deepening its indie/art cred, local Belcourt fan/Ben Folds drummer/Elena poster designer Sam Smith often makes original posters for the theater’s repertory shows.
Beer, cookies and great movies all under one roof at The Belcourt make us want to hit the road due south immediately. If you’re in town, grab a red wine and check out The Salt of Life, opening at the Belcourt tomorrow.