Vinegar Hill back from the dead!
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.