Truth At 24 Frames Per Second

By Steve Sedlak

Sometimes, knowing where a city’s best movie theaters are located proves to what degree you are a “native.” If you live in Pittsburgh for any considerable amount of time, you’ll know the Harris, the Works and the villainous North Hills Showcase Cinema, with its vintage neon signs. Movie theaters are like friends. You can hunt for new friends by joining clubs and party-hopping. Similar is the search for a good theater-you look on the Internet, you ask people for recommendations. But some of the best friends and movie theaters I’ve found were discovered accidentally, the best surprises.That was how I met the Riverview. It was love at first sight. I got off the bus in a small Minneapolis suburb with a couple of friends to see the latest “Harry Potter” flick and there it was, smiling at me with an electric grin stretching across its facade of neon splendor. We walked up to the ticket window, paid a measly $3 per ticket, and entered the lobby. This was by far the most lively movie theater lobby I had ever beheld. 1950s-ish couches (the type made to sit in and never actually feel comfortable) lined the room, and a trophy case displayed old brochures and newspaper clippings from the theater’s opening in the late 1940s.

After staring closely at an ad for “Giant” (1956) for a few minutes while everyone took a bathroom break, I turned to check out another small, wall-mounted exhibit. It was then that I found out that the Riverview not only had looks, it had depth. This glass box told me of the celebratory screening of sports events, video game tournaments and even the exhibition of locally produced grassroots documentaries. Then, now in rapture, my friends pulled me into the main auditorium.

The Riverview is perhaps the only non-artsy single-screen movie theater I have ever visited. It’s a beautiful place, a veritable paradise of comfy chairs (even comfier ones were installed after my first visit) and spectacular stadium seating. I wasn’t alive for the end of the era of crowded movie theaters, but because the Riverview is a second-run theater that can afford charging only $2 for matinees and $3 for evening shows, the place is usually packed, and the atmosphere is magical. The audience giggles when a little girl sighs during a kissing scene. We cheer when the corporate bastards got what was coming to them, and shriek when something scary and unexpected happens.

The Riverview is a step back in time. Whenever I visit, I have to ask myself how it could have possibly survived the latter half of the 20th century. Maybe it didn’t. Maybe it was a porno theater at some time. But I don’t care, because it’s back and it’s beautiful, and I’m willing to not ask questions if it keeps being its wonderful self.

After the movie, we stood outside waiting for the bus in the Minnesota cold. The Riverview’s location is its only blemish, one that I’m willing to overlook, and maybe you too will come to find it awkwardly charming in time. Usually it takes two buses to get to the Riverview (3800 42nd Ave South, Minneapolis, Minn. 55406) but it’s always worth it. Across the street, there’s a little café and a funky, hippy-esque nursery (of the botanic variety).

My hope is that you’ll fall in love with the Riverview as deeply as I have. Skip the megaplex and find the time to take the bus over the bridge to Minneapolis and introduce yourself. Once you go, you’ll probably get the feeling that it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship. To see what’s showing and get the location details, check out:
http://www.riverviewtheater.com.