By Mark I. West
August 9, 2022
The Independent Picture House, Charlotte’s new and only art house cinema, recently had its grand opening on June 24. Located at 4237 Raleigh Street on the northern edge of NoDa, the film venue has three auditoriums with a combined seating for 199 patrons, a state-of-the-art projection and sound system, a welcoming lobby area designed by Charlotte interior designer and artist Scott Weaver, and ample parking. A project of the Charlotte Film Society, The Independent Picture House (also known as the Indie) is officially described as a “non-profit community cinema that screens diverse, foreign, arthouse and independent films.”
In the span of little more than a month, The Independent Picture House is already filling the cultural gap that was created when the Manor Theatre, Charlotte’s oldest and best-known art house theater, closed in 2020. There are numerous connections between The Independent Picture House and Manor Theatre. Brad Ritter, the current President of the Charlotte Film Society, served as the general manager of the Manor for 21 years, and he has drawn on this experience in his role as one of the founders of The Independent Picture House. Brandy Ray, the Operations Director, also worked at the Manor.
The popcorn machine at the Indie is the very same popcorn machine that stood in the lobby of the Manor for many years. On the day that the Manor closed, Ritter had a meeting with his then boss, and he brought up the topic of the popcorn machine.
“The most important thing that came out of that meeting was I was able to secure the popcorn machine by telling my boss I wanted it for ‘sentimental’ reasons (which was true) and besides, it was too small for any of the other theaters in town,” said Ritter.
In addition to giving the Manor’s popcorn machine a new home, the Indie’s décor incorporates more historic artifacts and images related to the history of Charlotte movie theaters. Mounted on one wall are a number of old film reels. On another wall there are photographs of several now-defunct movie theaters from Charlotte. The restrooms include montages of movie advertisements that the Manor and other Charlotte movie theaters published in local newspapers.
Ritter and the staff involved with opening the Indie are deeply committed to supporting the community, and that extends to the offerings available at the concession stand. They sell local beer and offer fresh cookies made by a Charlotte bakery, Sweet Girl Cookies. Local organizations and filmmakers also have opportunities to rent their auditoriums for private screenings.
The Indie collaborates with the Charlotte Art League, which is located next door to the theater. If patrons arrive early to see a movie, the staff often suggests they visit the Art League to check out the rotating exhibit of original art.
The Charlotte Film Society also sponsors the Charlotte Film Festival. They plan to make the Indie the central location for this year’s festival, scheduled to take place from September 28 through October 2.
For Ritter, the opening of The Independent Picture House is part of a larger vision. “We want to be more than just a movie theatre showing movies,” he said. “We want to capitalize on being a nonprofit and collaborate with the entire Charlotte community.”