Better Than Netflix: The Roxy is Your Community Cinema

By MATT ANGLEN

With the opening of the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, and the recent parade of awkward weather surrounding us, Missoula is firmly rooted in what I call Movie Season. It’s the time of year when all you want to do is warm yourself by the glow of celluloid and let yourself forget that spring is still a very long way off. While many of us are huddled away in our homes binge watching Netflix, or heading out to Carmike to drop 20 dollars on a tub of popcorn, there is another option.

The Roxy Community Cinema began in 2013 as Mike Steinberg took over the role of executive director for the International Wildlife Film Festival – current owners of the Roxy Theater. The landmark venue had played host to the festival, now entering its 38th year, as well as a scattered few local events over the years, but its full potential had yet to be reached.

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The obvious solution was to screen year round, but what to show? Wildlife films, deserving as they are of our honor each year at the festival, are very much a niche market. The intimate theater couldn’t cover the cost of Hollywood blockbusters. So instead of stretching one niche market to its limits, Steinberg decided to cram every available niche film into one cinematic community experience.

From live broadcasts of the Met Opera in New York and the National Theater in London to a New Year’s Eve Kung Fu Movie Marathon, The Roxy has embraced every cult classic, oddball genre, obscure foreign masterpiece, and everything inbetween. Screening everything from the deeply artistic to the deeply ridiculous, the Roxy embraces a philosophy of, as Steinberg terms it, all – brow art.

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Film is a powerful medium rich in numerous artistic disciplines, a medium that has the potential to change the way we see our world, to present us with poigniant commentary on our society. It is also a form of entertainment and escapism. Film is a place where low brow and high brow art can be considered of an equal value, because at the core of attending a film is the shared experience of the audience.

Sure, grabbing a micro brew and screaming “Hey Youuuu Guyssssss!” along with Sloth as he rides down the sail of a pirate ship in The Goonies isn’t exactly a sophisticated experience. Just as watching a live broadcast of Offenbach’s Les Contes D’Hoffman isn’t going to leave you flooded with nostalgia and quoting lines just before the character speaks. However both experiences are equally valuable because of the level of excitement, entertainment, and community connection each offers.

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In a town where blue ribbon flyfishing is just as accessible as attending a symphony performance led by a world renowned conductor, it only makes sense that our community cinema should be as vibrant, weird, and diverse as our population.

So far, Steinberg’s all – brow approach to community cinema has paid off. In 2013 the Roxy Community Theater hosted 700 unique screenings (12% of which were films made right here in Montana) and saw more than 200,000 audience members pass through. Recently the Montana Department of Commerce recognized the Roxy as one of Montana’s “cultural tourism treasures” in the form of a grant from the Tourism Infrastructure Investment Program. The Roxy plans to continue their all brow, community driven program and enhance the theater, as well as make the move to digital screenings.

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So why should you set down your laptop and head to the Roxy?

Because thousands of miles don’t have to prevent us from rich cultural experiences anymore, because Netflix’s reccomendations pale in comparison to the community selected and Steinberg curated screenings, but mostly because no one should ever have to watch the Goonies alone.

For an up to date list of showtimes, click here

To volunteer and earn free movie tickets, click here

To donate to the Roxy, click here

Visit the Missoula Cultural Council Blog for more information on Arts and Economic Development

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Matt Anglen HeadshotMatt Anglen is a prodigal Missoulian who has returned to the valley after a brief stint as a starving artist in the Windy City. He is currently the Program Director for the Missoula Cultural Council and lives with his wife and son at the base of MountJumbo.