With the passing the same day on July 30, 2007 of film-makers Ingmar Bergman and Michaelangelo Antonioni it makes sense to remember that film both then AND now is largely a commercial enterprise targeted at the lowest common denominator: the masses largely interested in action--cheap thrills, empty spectacle, and stupefingly numbing cliches, one-liners, recycled gags, and loads of popcorn...
Although I have only been there once or twice since it opened (it used to be at the Little Theater on 19th Ave. E. near St. Joseph's), I can attest to this being the least "commercial" movie theater in Seattle, with very fine, programming, including art, foreign, "independent,"experimental, documentary, and classic film.
This may one of the very few non-commercial venue for cinephiles in Seattle (Seattle Art Museum also counts, I guess)...
Hence, NO preliminary 10-15 minutes of uninterrupted cheesy, flashing, adrenaline-thumping previews, commercials, or announcements, as I recall, before a screening.
Where else could we have seen the haunting, psychologically resonant neo-Italian-realist*** film version of Gian-Carlo Menotti's opera "The Medium"--directed by Menotti himself and with a radiant young Anna-Maria Alberghetti--think of "Turn of the Screw," and "Umberto D." (or an Italian Fascist film from Rome's Cinecitta studio**** all rolled in one, set to a modernist Puccini? How they pulled this forgotten gem out of some obscure vault is an open question.
Or a few years, an exhibition/film festival/symposium
on Slovene contemporary art (attended by the Slovene ambassador)?
A strikingly original, funky space, with two very comfortable screening rooms, gallery, bar/cafe, large windows that look out onto the increasingly "in" 12th Ave. scene.
This one-of-a-kind non-profit venue clearly stands head and shoulders above the Landmark Theaters (excepting possibly the Harvard Exit, Seven Gables, and Egyptian) in its selection of not-often-seen, mostly non-commercial fare.
What about "revisiting" films by such cultural/intellectual luminaries and film-makers who have passed away recently, such as Susan Sontag ("Brother Carl,") "Duet for Cannibals"), Arthur Miller ("Playing for Time," "Misfits"), Gian-Carlo Menotti* ("The Medium"** or "Amahl and the Night Visitors," Bergman ("Cries & Whispers," "Persona," "Scenes from a Marriage"), Antonioni ("L'avventura," "Blow-Up", etc.? (Robert Altman, despite his iconic maverick status, worked within the Hollywood studio system, as far as I know).
Or "one of its own," Elia Kazan (d. 2003), controversial for his role in the blacklisting of the McCarthy era but lauded for his "Streetcar Named Desire," "On the Waterfront," "Baby Doll."
Seattle being a fairly important theater city--even though theater and cinema are in many ways antithetical media--it would also be interesting, for instance, to see a program of successful Hollywood film versions of Tennessee Williams's works (John Huston's "Night of the Iguana," Kazan's "Streetcar," the little seen "Glass Menagerie" with Gertrude Lawrence in one of her rare film roles), "Summer and Smoke" with Geraldine Page repeating the role that brought her fame in a Circle in the Square revival in New York), even though the number of bowdlerized, mediocre-or-worse versions makes up the vast majority (think of Eugene O'Neill, except for "Long Day's Journey into Night," or Arthur Miller).
Or opera-on-film...Bergman's "Magic Flute," the ca. 1987 "Carmen," etc. (Maybe they have already had an occasional opera on film, rarely "a mini-series" or in repertory, to my memory...).
[The Big Picture in Belltown used to be adventurous ("The Station Agent," the Robert McNamara documentary, "Fog of War," the documentary on the influential architect Louis Kahn, etc.). In the past year, it has turned to VERY standard Hollywood fare ("Dreamgirls," "Casino Royale") that could seen at ANY multiplex. This is a duplication of effort--the Meridian 16, that downtown rabbit-warren downtown due for demolition in the not too distant future, usually has "first dibs" on this sort of fare].
This and the Harvard Exit are my two favorite movie theaters in Seattle.
The Warren Report, in the old Carnegie Free Library in Ballard: