For a movie-loving town, Portland’s lack of a dedicated art theater remains a source of both bafflement and shame. Sure, Portland’s rents are outrageous, streaming makes opening a new movie theater economically insane, and everything is superheroes now, but, dammit, I want a single-screen theater like the late, lamented Movies on Exchange Street. That’s where foreign films, art films, experimental films and cult classic re-releases made my movie-going life richer and more fun before it closed a decade ago.
Still, there are those in Portland still carrying on the mission of bringing the wider cinematic world to a ravenously artsy audience. Space Gallery, PMA Films and the Nickelodeon all do yeoman’s work in patching together the more out-there aspects of the movie scene, while city institutions like Damnationland and Femme.Cine.Anarchy provide intermittent showcases for the daring and sometimes demented. And now there’s an intriguing new player in town, as Portland’s Apohadion Theater has announced a new film series whose initial selections look poised to bring their own take on the venerable repertory theater model to the scene.
Known primarily as a music venue, The Apohadion sits at 107 Hanover St. in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood. With a seating capacity of 60 or so, the theater has done intermittent movie screenings in the past, but now, says The Apohadian’s Greg Jamie, the theater is in the movie game for the long haul. “I’m a big film buff from a long time ago,” Jamie said. “I worked at Film Forum in New York and went to film school there. What I missed most of all when I came to Maine was the repertory theaters. I’ve always been into more unusual films, the ones that had fallen through the cracks, and now I’m just so excited to have a space in a real, legitimate way. Not just pressing play, but dealing with distributors and all the rest.”
In setting up the new Apohadion film series – which begins on March 27, with its initial screening of director Alex Cox’s 1991 cult film “Highway Patrolman” – Jamie explains that the theater is upping its game, as far as the theatergoing experience goes. Having just received a grant from the arts-promoting Kindling Fund, The Apohadion is installing a new projector and screen in time for this first offering, another incentive for Portlanders to get off the couch and see a movie in the theater. Throw in the fact that The Apohadion serves beer, wine and snacks, and, as Jamie says, the funky atmosphere of The Apohadion “has its own character that works well with certain types of movies,” and this new series sounds even better.
“Highway Patrolman” sees Cox, director of cult classics “Sid And Nancy,” “Repo Man” and personal favorite the lunatic caper flick “Straight To Hell,” profiling a young Mexican cop as he copes with the increasingly strange nature of a job rife with corruption and violence. Picking the film – recently restored by the director – for The Apohadion’s first entry out of the gate was an easy one for programmer Jamie, who says he’s seeking out “recent re-releases of lost classics, or something that hasn’t gotten a thorough U.S. release at the time.”
Watch the trailer for “Highway Patrolman”
In keeping with those criteria, the next two films will be the never-released-in-America 1980 British reggae-and-racism drama “Babylon” (on April 3) and the 1990 Icelandic witchcraft fable “The Juniper Tree” starring a young Björk (April 10). In addition, look for the upcoming screening of director Bill Gunn’s 1973 sort-of vampire cult film “Ganja & Hess,” starring “Night of the Living Dead’s” Duane Jones and a planned focus on experimental films from around the world. Said Jamie, “There are these restorations happening consistently – there are many histories within the history of cinema that are not represented or explored.”
As part of Jamie’s mission to make The Apohadion Portland’s newest destination for adventurous film fans, he says that the theater will also be hosting Thaw, a showcase of Maine-made short comedy films from local film organization Maine Elements of Film on April 19. Jamie said that his plans are for the Apohadion film series to continue, and expand, assuming Portlanders come out to support it. As a film fanatic myself, whose movie nerd pleasure centers are happily tingling at this development in the local film scene, I’m gonna go ahead and urge Portlanders to come out and support it.
The Apohadion Theater film series begins on March 27 with a 7:30 p.m. showing of Alex Cox’s “Highway Patrolman.” Tickets are $8. For more info on this and other coming attractions in the Apohadion’s film series, go to theapohadiontheater.com.
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
Friday-Sunday: “Woman At War.” An Icelandic eco-warrior must debate her commitment to disrupting the land-despoiling actions of a huge corporation when she finds out her application to adopt a little girl has been accepted.
Sunday: “Dirty Looks: 8 Years On.” This collection of queer cinema experimental shorts from film collective Dirty Looks looks to “reassesses the past through a fiercely queer and politicized lens.”