Vinegar Hill back from the dead!

Adam Greenbaum reopened the 1930s-era Visulite Theater in Staunton in 2006. Now, he's saving Vinegar Hill. FILE PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO

Put away your tissues, dry your eyes, and change out of that somber funeral wear. Less than 24 hours after news of its demise, the word on Charlottesville's only independently owned movie theater: It's Aliiiiive!

"We're taking over Vinegar Hill," exclaims Adam Greenbaum, owner of Staunton's own Visulite Cinemas, the art house that opened in 2006. Greenbaum says Vinegar Hill will indeed close down after Sunday–- but only for two weeks.

"We're going to get in there, do some technical upgrades primarily, and reopen on November 14 with Rachel Getting Married," Greenbaum explains. "Charlottesville is not losing Vinegar Hill."

Although Vinegar Hill manager Hain Laramore reported last night that the 32-year-old theater has been struggling financially in recent years and that owner Ann Porotti had decided to shut it down, Greenbaum thinks he'll be able to return Vinegar Hill to its glory days.

"We're really going to try to focus on Charlottesville and outreach to the University, [and] hold discussions," says Greenbaum. "It's time-consuming, but I think it makes a huge difference." In the long term, Greenbaum hopes to make "serious upgrades to the seating and facility and really bring it up."

Greenbaum is realistic about the challenges independent theaters face going up against behemoths like Regal, which has increasingly grabbed indie films that might traditionally have gone to theaters like Vinegar Hill.

"They're the most aggressive, have the biggest clout," he says of Regal. But Greenbaum's not discouraged. "I think there's enough art product out there that Regal doesn't pick up," he says, citing films he's already booked to show in upcoming months including Happy-Go-Lucky and Slumdog Millionaire.

In addition to the Regal competition, Greenbaum's well aware of another competitor: the home theater.

"Obviously it's easier to sit at home," he says, "but I don't think it will ever really substitute for going out to the movie experience." Greenbaum describes the "social component" of movie going as "crucial," and says he takes great joy in watching his Visulite customers after the movie ends.

"There's nothing better than when a movie lets out and a crowd of people are talking about it for 20 minutes," he says, "even though they don't necessarily know each other."

For one filmmaker and former Vinegar Hill employee, the good news (coming immediately on the heels of the bad) is a big relief.

"I'm so excited," says Alexandria Searls, whose history with the theater dates back to her days as UVA undergrad in the early 1980s. "I talked to a few people who said, 'Oh, we can't lose Vinegar Hill.'"

And now, it seems, we haven't.

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Way to come to the rescue, Adam!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you. As a Visulite fan, I know Vinegar Hill has landed in excellent hands.

My question is will they keep the real butter for popcorn?

Great news ! ! See you in two weeks.

Could the new owner please return Vinegar Hill to its glory days? Over the past 15 years, up until about 3-4 years or so ago, I was able to enjoy foreign movies with subtitles. I'd like to see a return to foreign and independent films.

Also, I have a severe hearing loss. I depend on subtitles and captions in order to be able to understand anything.

Perhaps the new owner could look into retrofitting Vinegar Hill with MOPIX? For more information, please see: For ideas as to how to retrofit a theater, see:


And best of luck for future success. I'd frequent Vinegar Hill if I could - I haven't gone to a movie theater in ages, because what's the point? I can't understand the movie, anyway.

Thank you.

weird, i was just there last night to see religulous. the fella at the counter did seem a bit distracted! glad it is staying open...i promise to go more often!

This is great news for film lovers.

The owner and staff of the Vinegar Hill in the last 30 years have presented films that few in Charlottesville would have been likely to encounter.

To this day, one of the single greatest experiences of my movie-going life was catching The Godfather and Part II on a double-bill on a long Saturday evening at the Vinegar hill, right at the dawn of VCRs and video rental stores -- the days before it was possible to watch a film on demand, the days when, if you wanted to see a picture at all, you had to wait to catch it on television in an edited (mangled) print interrupted by commercials.

If Vinegar Hill had shuttered its projector, the only comparable venue left in town for classic, foreign, indie and obscure art-house cinema would have been the venerable Sneak Reviews video store on Ivy Road. And even then, there is something sublime about sitting in a theater with an audience of kindred spirits, noshing on (fresh) popcorn and viewing mind-expanding cinema. It's an expereince that just cannot be approximated by renting a flick.

A hearty thank you to the Staunton businessman for stepping up to this opportunity and a tip of the hat to Ms. Parotti, for almost single-handedly keeping alive Charlottesville's original and only art house.

I will keep buying my tickets for as long as you keep the projector humming.

Deepest thanks,

~ Cinematic Cteve