(Part one of a two-part series)
They are throwbacks to the old days when people went to “the picture show” in ornate settings to see talkies and revel in the cinematic technology. Today some of those marvelous old movie houses remain, restored and reenergized, as places for movies or live performances or both. Here is a smattering of such theaters from around the cozy cultural confines of Providence; part two will feature those in other parts of the state.
Avon Cinema in the heart of the city’s East Side and the Brown University scene, shows indie, foreign and art-house films in a cozy art deco setting, the style dating to its opening in February 1938. It is arguably the state’s premier art house, opening in a building that previously housed the short-lived Toy Theatre in 1915, which closed and saw the space become a garage for two decades. As a movie house, special premiers were sometimes held at the Avon, including “Marty” in 1955. Coming attractions include “God’s Own Country,” “The Insult” and “A Fantastic Woman.”
Known locally as “the theater with the couches,” Cable Car Cinema offers a curated array of indie and foreign films in an intimate setting where you can make yourself at home and enjoy food, wine and beer with your film. It’s a popular spot that didn’t start out that way; it opened on a lonely night in 1976 to zero audience members. It took several more years to establish a presence, which continues to grow, as the theater is popular with locals and visitors alike, airing such things as the French Film Festival, now showing through March 3. Coming attractions include “Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Live in Copenhagen” and “The Art and Design Film Festival Presents: Caravaggio.”
Travel & Leisure once called the circa 1926 Columbus Theatre on Providence’s West Side “The city’s reigning cool music venue.” One reason could be this: Actor John C. Reilly has played the Columbus with his band, and loves it, performing for locals and one night, his buddy and fellow actor Joaquin Phoenix. In a New York Times story about the Columbus, Reilly said of that post-show party with Phoenix “We listened to records, had some refreshments, looked at a giant oscillating moth sculpture in the dark and composed free jazz poems while accompanied on upright bass. You know, the usual Providence stuff.” Coming attractions include “Godspeed You! Black Emperor with Tashi Dorji,” Boston comic Colin Quinn, and the “Dweezil Zappa World Tour 2018.”