Some interesting opinions arose after Greg Boardman, the manager of Champaign's independent movie theater, the Art, announced he would not be renewing his lease in December 2009. In a totally random, stealth-interview approach, Smile Politely pounced on local residents in an attempt to cultivate raw, unrehearsed viewpoints. What we found was a general feeling of ill-will toward the Art Theatre, which many of our interviewees agreed was a "snooty, artsy place too thought-provoking for most people."
"When I go to see a movie, I don't want to think," said thirty-year-old Duane Millsap of Champaign. "Give me explosions, high-speed car chases, random violence, you know, just blow off somebody's head and entertain me. Gratuitous sex is always good. Don't give me some inspirational bullshit that could move me to tears or force me to look inwardly at my life choices." Millsap admitted he missed The Dark Knight's two-week stint at the Art. The theater is most known for playing such yawn-inducing butt-busters as the pretentious Man on Wire, the too-Coeny Burn After Reading, and the suicide-inspiring There Will be Blood.
The Art Theatre, a nearly 100-year-old eyesore (erected in 1913), sits in a prominent space in Champaign's thriving downtown, where a new parking garage and the convenient burning of the Metropolitan Building have allotted for new retail and parking space. While Champaign-Urbana is hurtling toward progress, many believe it's time to do out with the old to make way for exciting new establishments, like maybe a Dunkin' Donuts.
Ricky Manz, a Champaign resident for twenty years, thinks the historically significant building is due for a bulldozing. "It's about time that old theater came down. This town isn't big enough for three concurrently-operating movie theaters. It should be leveled into a parking garage, since that's what the downtown needs — more parking spaces." When informed the new parking garage behind the Art Theatre actually opened in the last month, Manz replied, "Oh, I wouldn't know. I don't go downtown."
When asked her opinion of how losing the historic building would impact Champaign, visitor Ellen Rinehold threw up her hands in disgust. "I'd be glad to see this abomination go. The marquee is misleading-all it says is "Art" in big, glowing letters. It doesn't say "showplace" or "cineplex." I thought it was an art gallery! The only art inside that theater is a mural of James Franco and Scarlett Johansson. This thing should be torn down to stop the confusion. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm late for a movie at the Cinema in downtown Urbana."
But not everyone shares the opinion the uppity eyesore should be demolished. An unidentified man, found lurking in the shadows of the brand-spanking new parking garage, was asked his opinion on the Art Theatre's closure. He stuffed what appeared to be a tire iron in the back of his pants as he said, "It was a shame when they closed the old porno house. They should reopen the theater and take it back to its roots." An interesting idea, indeed. As it stands now, C-U has no theater featuring strictly pornographic films. Reopening the Art as "The Adult" may bring in the new revenue the downtown is aspiring for.
When we tried to reach the philanthropic owner of the current Art, David Kraft, a ringback tone of "Here Comes the Money" by Naughty by Nature ended with an indiscernible answering machine message akin to a person breathing through a scuba diving mask. The only words that could be understood in the heavy breathing were "total domination" and "new overlord." Serendipitously, we spotted Mr. Kraft walking out of the Embassy Tavern in Urbana (or heard, rather, as all heads turned to the sound of bellowing, maniacal laughter), but he refused to remove his obsidian bucket-shaped helmet to answer our questions.
Update: In this revealing video, Kraft was caught on tape prancing to the tune of his success, sans his trademark helmet.
Or, maybe not. Happy April Fool's Day from Smile Politely. Unfortunately, the Art really is closing.