Screening Room’s Daily Movies Bring Downtown Back into the Movie Game
October 14, 2014
by Brad Poole
About 40 years ago, Downtown’s last movie screen went dark as America moved to the suburbs and brought their entertainment with them.
A few years ago, the Fox Tucson Theatre opened on Congress after renovations – it sat empty for many years. The Fox only shows films occasionally, and it’s largely set up for live performances. But a new partnership between Grand Cinemas and the Arizona Media Arts Council has again brought mainstream movies Downtown.
As of last month, the Screening Room, which has long served as a centerpiece of Arizona International Film Festival, is now a full-time movie house.
“They weren’t really a full-time theater. They were more for special events,” said Pattie Thomas, who manages the theater for Grand. “We weren’t able to do first-run, but we’re doing mid-run films, ones that would normally be in a discount theater.”
The Screening Room opened in 1985 and has hosted scores of special events through the years – the Arizona International Film Festival, local film premiers, live shows during numerous music festivals. But the daily schedule of movies lifts the theater out of its relative obscurity and brings Downtown back into the movie game.
Grand made several major improvements in the 114 seat space at 127 E. Congress. The new operators moved seats, lighting and the sound system from its recently closed Crossroads Theater to bring the Screening Room up to date. The Dolby 5.1 surround system offers booming sound in the tiny space, in part because it was designed for a larger room.
The Screening Room also got a high tech digital projector to replace the massive film-based one that had been in the projection room. The “films” are now delivered on hard drives, then transferred to the projector’s hard drive for showing. It’s state-of-the-art stuff that technician Jeff Rodenkirch can control from his phone.
“It’s basically the same resolution as your home television,” Rodenkirch said.
The brand new screen was a stroke of luck. It was made for another theater, but it was cut the wrong size. It was a perfect fit for the Screening Room.
The menu of snacks and drinks also got an upgrade. There are locally produced, organic, gluten-free cookies; edamame; hummus; wasabe peas and, of course, popcorn. And as of last week, the Screening Room has a liquor license and serves a small selection of beer and wine.
There are plans to expand the theater’s scope. Starting later this year, the Screening Room will host films of Britain’s Royal Opera House performances, and the stage below the silver screen will host portions of the upcoming soul festival and Terror Fest from Oct. 23-25.
“We’re also going to be the new home for Odyssey Storytelling every month,” Thomas said.
The movie prices are hard to beat. Full-price shows are just $3.75, with discounts for anyone over 65 or under 10. For ticket information and showtimes, go to their website. The Screening Room is also available for rental.