What screams awesome movies better than massive explosions, gratuitous violence, and scores of bare breasts bobbling all over the silver screen? Some, like the proprietors and the community following of the Darkside Cinema in downtown Corvallis, find insightful commentary, well-crafted story development, and an aesthetically pleasing environment to make all the difference. That and zombie movies.
If you are looking for a place to stimulate your senses without the pervasive noise of a mainstream cinema, the Darkside may be for you.
Upon entering the Darkside Cinema, you are set upon by the retro influences of an artistic community. Both elegant and MacGyveresqe, the hand-built qualities give it a personal feel. In place of arcade games, one finds a small gallery hosting oil paintings and photography. Rather than red sit-in race car rides, old-school golden couches against deep purple walls set the tone. The space is perfectly sized for the after movie discussion and the lighting from the vintage Edison bulbs adds a pleasing level of ambiance both in the theaters and lobby.
Reading owner/operator Paul Turner’s blog, one begins to understand the pleasant nature of the cinema and deep roots it has within the community. The blog, found on the Darkside’s website, adds a human element to the experience. Between the anecdotes and hyperboles, you find a man working to fulfill himself while putting his blood, sweat, and mustache into the cultural underworld of Corvallis.
“If the mega-corporate multiplex cinemas are Fox News, we are NPR. We provide thought-provoking entertainment and zombie movies. So, we’re NPR, with zombies.”
The Darkside offers a different kind of movie-watching experience than your ordinary venue. Every Tuesday there is a Community Movie Night with live host Ygal Kaufman. Community Night, also known as CMNYK, features classic films enriched by a sampling of newsreels, cartoons, and other flavorful footage from the era. The audience is surprisingly diverse, a testament to the appeal of professional showmanship. Still on the fence? I should mention that CMNYK is free, all you have to do is show up and have a good time. And yes, it’s the same Ygal Kaufman that works at The Advocate.
Turner and the Darkside crew also host a variety of contemporary films ranging from cerebral docudramas and foreign films to mainstream horror. While a big corporate cinema may be playing the hottest first run films, the Darkside is selecting based on directors, content, and the ever important customer interest. Availability can be a limiting factor in the independent cinema business as the preferred types of movies are often not released during the summer. Despite film competition with big cinemas and nonprofit theaters alike, Turner and the Darkside are “keeping it Darwinian” and adapting their programs to fill the film vacuum.
“People keep telling me that VOD or VR is going to put us out of business. This is the same idiotic song they’ve been playing since the first TV came out,” he said.
It is not uncommon for theaters to be completely packed, so do try to be punctual. The unwitting group arriving right at the start may have to suck it up and sit in different rows. This, however, is part of the charm. The intimacy of the Darkside theaters bestows a feeling of camaraderie, that you are watching an interesting movie with a collection of other interesting people in an interesting environment. Tickets are extremely well priced but if you cannot swing the $9 evening prices, drop a couple bucks in the pot on CMNYK.
Corvallis boasts a thriving community culture that is enhanced by the opportunity to view handpicked films every day of the week. “Every week we try to have something that makes me glad to be doing what I’m doing.” The words of a true connoisseur, Turner and the Darkside crew put their hearts into providing high-quality entertainment and a wonderful environment to meet with our friends and family. As the holidays approach atop a tsunami of mass-produced plastic toys and movies that could be described the same way, Corvallis hits a celluloid jackpot counting The Darkside and its crew as a C-Town feature. And, speaking of holidays, the receiver of a gift certificate from this movie house will know the giver to have some excellent taste and conscientiousness about supporting the uniqueness of our community.
In fact, this place is so well loved that when the chips were down and it was down to a Kickstarter campaign to buy the tech now required for screening, The Darkside scored early and over what they asked for and, not too many locals can actually say that.
By Anthony Vitale