There’s nothing in this world a true cinephile loves more than a local single-screen arthouse cinema. Unless it’s an independent video store.
Well, I have good news for you.
While Portland remains bafflingly arthouse-free, a quick trip down I-295 will take you to Brunswick’s Eveningstar Cinema, which since 1978 has been this lucky city’s home to quality films from around the world. And while the pandemic has hurt independent cinemas even more than the big chains, Eveningstar owner Shaun Boyle and his staff have persevered, even expanding the theater digs at Brunswick’s Tontine mall with a new entrance. , an expanded and improved concession stand, and — wait for it — an all-new video store.
“Our old concession and ticketing area looked like a ship’s kitchen,” joked Boyle, owner of the Eveningstar since 2019. “But now with the new construction, we’ve taken over the hallway and a common area, so we could actually deal with people walking into the mall. It got me thinking about what could work there that would be complementary to the main business of the theatre.
But video libraries are dead, aren’t they? (Here, I’m just going to pour one for Portland’s late Videoport. RIP, old friend.) The video rental business has some 1,700 movies, representing every movie played at the Eveningstar in the past 40 years.
It’s a great hook and a brilliant plan, pairing the history of independent theater with a side business that will only attract more moviegoers to the Tontine. And I like it.
As local film buffs know, the Tontine is no stranger to major video libraries, with Bart and Greg’s late DVD Explosion (which eventually closed in 2017) having resided downstairs at the Eveningstar. And Bart and Greg will live in the new store at the Eveningstar, as former owner Bart D’Alauro has teamed up with Boyle to fill in some of the most obscure movies from the theater’s past.
“When word started circulating about us adding a video element to the concession stand, Bart reached out,” Boyle said. “While planning this, I imagined that these days you could get a pretty good collection on the cheap – which, I found out, you really can’t. Bart lends us a good chunk of his videos for fill in the gaps, some of which still have Bart and Greg’s stickers in. It’s nice to feel that story.
Another surprisingly difficult task for Boyle was simply finding the names of all the movies. “We’re looking at 40 years of movies,” Boyle said, “and things weren’t digitized until about 1996.” So Boyle and his team set to digging, eventually turning to the local library’s microfiche to cobble together the entire catalog of Eveningstar advertisements in the Brunswick Times Record and our own Press Herald. “It was a fun little research project,” Boyle said.
As for the now-open Eveningstar video store, Boyle explains that while rentals are open to everyone, supporting Eveningstar members get a discount off the store’s already quite reasonable prices. And while Boyle says the process of setting up the necessary rental database has been, like the process of buying movies, more difficult than he imagined, he’s excited about this new branch of the activity of his theatre.
“In a single-screen theater there are downtimes, so employees can manage the store element,” Boyle said. “We are still starting to sense customer habits. We have drop box and late fee policy. We are playing with the idea of monthly subscriptions and other ideas. We will adapt as we go. »
Adaptation is the key. That Eveningstar’s video store doesn’t have to bear the economic brunt of the company is smart, as the video rental industry has been all but wiped out by streaming services. Instead of launching into a rant about the finicky nature of the streaming experience, here’s Boyle: “With streaming, you don’t get that tactile thing, there’s not the same sense of discovery. Also, as we’ve seen, things are leaving streaming services. Here we have a player in the store, and the other day someone came to buy tickets and “Fargo” was on TV. Staff and client struck up a conversation. It was really nice.
There are also other improvements coming to the Eveningstar. A new laser projector is coming soon, which fits with Boyle’s thought that “an arthouse theater should provide the best viewing experience.” And while Boyle says foot traffic during the pandemic has been “miserable” for the past few years, Eveningstar’s reliable list of excellent and unique big-screen movies has enticed Maine moviegoers to come to the theater. (Masks and proof of vaccination are still responsibly required.)
Will Eveningstar’s experience in movie rentals bring back the video store? No, sadly, the days of dragging your fingers through a neatly curated library of movies in one of the many handy video libraries are over, thanks to the lure of couch convenience. (Yes, I’m still bitter.) But a lovingly curated library of movies as part of the experience of going to a great local cinema is, thanks to Boyle and his staff, back to reminding us how much a special thing was .
So head to the Eveningstar. Buy a ticket. Rent a movie. And, for the love of all things sacred, keep your fingers away from the shiny side of the record, you freaks.
Eveningstar Video is open daily from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 149 Maine St., Brunswick. For more information, call 207-729-6796 or visit eveningstarcinema.com.
Dennis Perkins lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.
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