Tuesday, February 16, 2010

the Capri

You never know when you'll stumble on a cultural treasure.

Turns out there's one right in the Cloverdale district of Montgomery, Alabama. Built in 1941 and lovingly managed for the past 25 years by Martin McCaffery, the Capri Theatre offers the kind of programming that many much larger cities would die for: everything from classics and cult films to controversial foreign fare.   

From the moment we start the tech check, I know I'll have no worries: The image is crisp, the Dolby E surround sound clear and well-balanced.  Martin knows his stuff - his office walls are decorated with film images of all sorts and varieties -  and he justifiably takes pride in his technical knowledge and curatorial vision.   

The Monday night turnout (more than 40 people!) seems appreciative of the place. Many of the patrons greet Martin by name; some ask him about the future of the theater which, like so many regional indie cinemas, is working very hard to remain solvent.

"There's no film education around here nowadays," Martin relates over dinner. "No one's learning about the value of these movies as part of history, as part of our culture." It's a familiar lament - theatre owners from California to the Carolinas have said much the same to me. Kids go to the local multiplex and consume movies that little more than fast food for the eyes.   

The lights come up.  Though there's a university just down the block, most of this audience is gray-haired. Their questions are intelligent and considered, and I'm delighted to be talking with them.

Twenty minutes later, Martin sends home the help and closes up the Capri.  I bundle up; we shake hands a job well-done, and I head out into the night.

You never know when you might lose a cultural treasure.