Bantam wait: Another indie theater gears up
As Vinegar Hill prepares to duke it out with Regal cinemas for the art film market in Charlottesville, another independent art house is gearing up to open, but its co-founder says it won't be competing with the other two theaters.
"We're going to be a true independent film space," says photographer turned filmmaker Jason Lappa, who's joined forces with freelance journalist Jayson Whitehead to open the Bantam Theater in the former Live Arts building on Market Street in January.
Lappa points out that while films that screen at Vinegar Hill and the newly converted downtown Regal may be described as "indie" films, those movies often have big name distributors and have typically found some success on the festival circuit.
That won't always be the case at Bantam, where Lappa says, he hopes to be working directly with filmmakers whose work hasn't yet been widely seen. Many of the films may be locally made, he says, and he also envisions hosting what might be described as an "open mic night for filmmakers," where directors of short films could screen their work and get audience feedback.
"I want it to be a community for filmmakers and film lovers," he says.
Lappa is aiming to offer the first official screening at Bantam the third week in January, followed in the next months by a series of "mini film-festivals," and says that while ticket prices haven't yet been set, "it's going to be relatively inexpensive" compared to the $9.50 Vinegar Hill charges and Regal's price of $10.50.
The space, which was most recently home to Club 216 until the after-hours club closed in January, will be outfitted with couches and beanbags for a more casual, comfortable viewing experience. And while Lappa says he hopes to eventually be able to add wine and beer to the concession offerings, drinking won't be the focus, and he's happy about that.
"In Charlottesville, there's very little for people that want to go out and do something that doesn't involve getting wasted," he says. "Everything's so focused on 'the scene.' We'll provide an alternative to that, and it's a great thing."
–The original caption described Jason Lappa as a "filmmaker turned photographer." He is the opposite, and the caption has been corrected.–ed.