If you haven’t been there, it’s not like any other cinema. Period, full stop. I’ve been to many great movie houses of yesteryear, like the insanely beautiful Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Enzian is nothing like them. I’ve been to many modern art-house cinemas. Again, no. I’ve been to my share of “Cinema Drafthouse” type places, and you’re getting warmer but still far off the mark. The Enzian is really quite individual in this world, and not even the many warm memories I have of the Rhodes Cinema in Atlanta or the Grove Cinema in Coconut Grove or the other film dives that came alive only when the lights went down and the movie came up can erase my love of the Enzian, it’s owners and staff, it’s festivals and events but of course it’s wholistic movie experience, which goes far beyond just the good stuff on the screen.
Having said all that, the Enzian has a rival. They don’t even know about it (till some of them read this post and I know they will!), but it too flirts for my affection. It is called CineCenta, a part of the University of Victoria, and it is different from the Enzian, but in a kind of “kid brother” way. I’ve been lazy in not finding it till recently, trying out the other cinemas in town both mainstream and off-beat; Victoria has a strong art-film sensibility and you can find foreign and highbrow works all over town, particularly during the Victoria Film Festival. I am ashamed to have avoided driving “all the way across town” (15 minutes) to the UVic campus for almost two years.
Like Enzian, the prices at CineCenta are insanely low. They offer memberships in the society, they frequently mix “revival” prints and other curiosities into the mix, they host mini-fests of their own and yes, Enzian — they put real butter on their popcorn.
Oh, there are differences, to be sure. CineCenta operates on a shoestring, their theatre is smaller (300 seats), their advertising is virtually non-existant off-campus and they don’t serve wine or beer.
What they do have, though, is an appealing “student” atmosphere, a frankly fantastic sound system that squeezes the sweetest highs and shakes the bottoming bass with astonishing clarity; the pre-screening jazz we heard was melting my brain with audiophile delight, and of course, a plethora of wildly diverse but mostly amazing movies.
As I write this, the 60th anniversary print of De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (see my review here) has given way to Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae, which will be replaced this weekend by showings of Pixar’s Up and Duncan Jones’ Moon, with an almost obligatory screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show next week. And much, much more. Wow.
I’m now down to missing mostly Enzian’s rolling, reclining chairs and tables, their high-quality menu and their wonderful staff, because CineCenta is meeting my needs on most of the other fronts pretty nicely now.
I feel a bit like a cat who’s gone to live down the street, where they feed me more yum-yums. 🙂