Bad Movies Lead Owner to Shutter Illinois Theater

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Melissa Block talks with Greg Boardman, owner of the Lorraine Theater in Hoopeston, Ill. Boardman closed the theater for a few weeks, because he didn't think there were any movies worth showing. But the community strongly disagreed.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

For the last two weeks, the Lorraine Movie Theater in Hoopeston, Illinois, population about 5800, has been closed. Not because of trouble with the projector or a lack of business; the Lorraine's been closed because the theater's owner didn't think there were any movies worth showing. It's reopening tonight with films that Greg Boardman thinks suit his audience. He grew up near Hoopeston but lives in California now. We reached him in Fresno.

Mr. GREG BOARDMAN (Owner, Lorraine Theater): The Lorraine has a great following from a long ways away, but it's mainly for the spectacular films like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, things like that. And the offerings that were available to me just were not something that people would leave Champagne or Danville, or parts farther away to come see it. They can see it at a local multiplex.

BLOCK: It sounds like you're not saying you're looking for something especially highbrow to run in your theaters.

Mr. BOARDMAN: No, I have Boardman's Art Theater in Champagne, and you know, we have the Korean film festival on this weekend, and in another week we were showing - Sunday through Thursday we're showing The Science of Sleep. Frankly, if I show The Science of Sleep or, you know, Little Miss Sunshine, there just wouldn't be enough of an audience to make it worth doing, really.

BLOCK: Are you sure about that? I think people in the community seem to be saying you're selling them short.

Mr. BOARDMAN: No, actually I'm not. I think, in fact, some of the - I brought in A Prairie Home Companion and the turnout was just okay. It wasn't great. I mean, I've shown - I showed The Madness of King George. I showed a French film and had people walk out because they had subtitles; they didn't know it had subtitles. They tend to come to films that are heavily advertised and promoted, and mostly on television. However, having said that, I will also say that, you know, we did Snakes on a Plane, which I knew was, you know, a crummy movie, but - and people there, to their credit, did not come.

BLOCK: But you did bring it in.

Mr. BOARDMAN: Which is fine, you know, and that's the reason I didn't show Jackass 2, because I give people there a lot of credit. I don't think I would have - look, it certainly cost me to not bring in Jackass 2. It made $28 million around the country, okay? And I would have had, you know, a decent turnout for it. But how many people would have looked at that on the marquee saying that this is the kind of stuff that he shows. And I think it's beneath a lot of the people in Hoopeston. I think it's certainly beneath my standards, and it's beneath my standards for quality of presentation. I mean, there's just no reason for the best sound system in the world showing somebody vomiting onscreen.

BLOCK: We should explain that the Lorraine is old movie theater and that you've upgraded it with a state-of-the-art sound system and all sorts of bells and whistles.

Mr. BOARDMAN: Correct.

BLOCK: When you were closed for those two weeks, what happened to your employees?

Mr. BOARDMAN: I gave my manager two weeks off with pay.

BLOCK: And what about the ticket vendor or the popcorn girl?

Mr. BOARDMAN: The staff is part time and, you know, but they work such few hours that I don't think it was a hardship, really; in fact, they probably enjoyed not having to come in for a couple of weeks.

BLOCK: Do you think there is something particular about this year that led to your decision to close down for these two weeks? Whatever came out of Hollywood this year?

Mr. BOARDMAN: I wouldn't say it was just necessarily this year. I think it was just the timing is generally a slump after the big films for the summer. You know, Da Vinci Code, Pirates of the Caribbean, Cars, you know, all those kinds of films. And there's generally a slump between Labor Day and the holiday films that come out before Thanksgiving. And I've always just put something up there on the screens to remain open, because, you know, when you put closed on a movie theater these days, people think it's closed for good.

But you know, it was never really a business for me in Hoopeston; it was a hobby, and I did it for fun and for my own enjoyment as much as for anything else. I wanted to save the theater and I wanted to make it as good as I thought that it could be with the great acoustics that it had built into it originally. But you know, the movie producers have every right to make the films that they want to make, but I have the right to not show them as well.

BLOCK: Well, Greg Boardman, it's good to talk with you. Thanks so much.

Mr. BOARDMAN: You're welcome.

BLOCK: That's Greg Boardman, owner of the Lorraine Theater in Hoopeston, Illinois. Starting tonight, you can catch Open Season and Invincible at the Lorraine.

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