, Salem, MA


December 12, 2012

Rallying around the movie theater

It’s a business, not a nonprofit.

And theoretically, at least, CinemaSalem exists to produce money for its owner.

And yet, in Salem, The Little Theater That Could has become much more than that. And that’s why the campaign to save Salem’s unique movie theater seems very much like the kind of heartwarming story that could be featured itself on the theater’s silver screen.

CinemaSalem opened in 2006 in a spot where several earlier theaters had failed. There’s big competition next door in Danvers, with 20 screens at the AMC Loews Liberty Tree Mall theater and another half-dozen or so at Hollywood Hits. Salem has just three regular screens, plus a small screening room for less-well-known art-house films and local productions.

But local co-owner Paul Van Ness has thrived where others failed by becoming an integral part of the Salem community and, literally, making a difference.

He put this small city on the map, at least in the movie world, by creating Salem Film Fest, a winter festival that brings in dozens of documentary films — and their filmmakers — for screenings, discussions and lectures. It’s a boost not only to moviegoers, but to restaurants and businesses downtown who see a big bump in activity during one of the coldest times of the year. Dozens of volunteers help make it a reality.

A portion of the theater’s proceeds every month is donated to local nonprofits, including the YMCA, HAWC, Salem CyberSpace and the Foundation for Salem Public Education, some $40,000 in all. And, just as importantly, the owner has opened the theater as a community gathering spot, inviting people in for free screenings of popular TV series, such as “Glee” and “Lost,” or for community groups to air films.

It’s unusual to find independent movie theaters today in the heart of a small city, much less contributing to the character of a downtown. But CinemaSalem has filled that niche here.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

AP Video
Raw: Israel Bombs Multiple Targets in Gaza Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks From Space Station Widow: Jury Sent Big Tobacco a $23B Message New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts UN Security Council Calls for MH 17 Crash Probe Obama Bestows Medal of Honor on NH Veteran Texas Sending National Guard Troops to Border Hopkins to Pay $190M After Pelvic Exams Taped Foxx Cites Washington 'Circus Mirror' NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Obama Voices Concern About Casualties in Mideast Diplomacy Intensifies Amid Mounting Gaza Toll AP Exclusive: American Beaten in Israel Speaks Obama Protects Gay, Transgender Workers Raw: Gaza Rescuers Search Rubble for Survivors Raw: International Team Inspects MH17 Bodies Raw: 25 Family Members Killed in Gaza Airstrike US Teen Beaten in Mideast Talks About Ordeal 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success
Comments Tracker
Roll Call
Helium debate