I just received an email from Paul Turner, the owner of the Avalon Cinema and Darkside Cinema here in Corvallis, Oregon. The Avalon is closing due to low attendance. I hope the Darkside Cinema can sustain itself. I have seen several films at the Darkside and I thoroughly enjoy seeing independent films on the big screen here in Corvallis.
Here is the email in its entirety from Paul:
For almost ten years the Avalon Cinema has been on Second Street creating the market for art and independent films in Corvallis and making such fare available to our community. After a final extensive remodel that brought in beer, wine, and food, it has become obvious that the Avalon Cinema no longer has a place in this fine town. Attendance has been dismal and the bills are not getting paid.
It would be easy for me to start waxing maudlin and sentimental. After all, there is a lot of history there. Not only for my customers, but for me, as well. There have been wonderful highs and soul searing lows. The days of the highs are gone.
With the coming to town of the Carmike 12-plex, the competition for movies has become fierce. The war was mostly between Carmike 12 and Ninth Street Cinemas and we are caught in the crossfire. There are only so many good movies out there and we used to get five or six of them a year. Now we get one or two. With so many first-run screens in town, both of the big theaters have started culling from my market to fill their screens. Since they are bigger, the movies will go to them. No matter how cool the Avalon was, it is the films that fill the seats. The stress of adding the Darkside to this town’s cinematic mix was the final straw. We basically killed the Avalon by building our own cool new theater.
When I’m at a low point, it gets very easy to be bitter about the local government having invited the cinema exhibition vampire that is Carmike over the threshold of our fair city to suck the life-blood out of what was cool about films here. And I have a sense of rage that five years after the death of the Whiteside, people are forming groups to try to do something with the building. Where the hell were they when it was a movie theater looking for ticket buyers? I guess buying a ticket isn’t as sexy as whining after the fact. The ounce of prevention this town needs is to support those places they want to see remain viable. Don’t count on your neighbors to do it for you, because the pound of cure will always be less desirable. Yes, if the Avalon and Darkside fold up and drift down the Willamette, it’s likely that you can see some good movies at the Regal and Carmike — if you don’t mind 20 minutes of ads, and higher prices, and someone trying to up-sell you every time you step into the neon lobby. But there will be no one left to take chances on the smaller, unproven titles.
So it goes.
The Darkside is in serious danger of going the way of the Avalon. This is where you get to choose the look and feel of your town. We are coming up with various strategies to make the Darkside more viable. We will be counting votes to see how serious the community is about saving the Darkside, and those votes will be cast with your dollars. We are looking at many different ways to make the Darkside work. If we decide to do a real, live fundraiser, we’ll let you know. If we decide to become a non-profit, we’ll need your help. The fact is, this has not been an easy battle for me
and my health isn’t what it should be. I need to get some more support from the community or soon I will need to move on to something that will actually provide me with a wage and a day off once in a while. Maybe this sounds like I’m gonna take my toys and leave the sandbox.
I’ve done my part to bring this type of cinema to town. Now it’s your turn. Do you want the Darkside, the Majestic, Robnett’s, Red Horse, and Sunny Side Up in your future? Make no mistake: every dollar you spend at Carmike, Home Depot, and Starbucks is another nail in the coffin for these local establishments.
The best part about the history of the Avalon is the people who have come through the door. Alan Ayres, who owns the building, is the main reason we have stayed in that location. He has put up with more shit from me than any landlord has the right to. If there was ever someone’s hand you should shake in gratitude for independent film in Corvallis, it’s his. Shortly after I opened the Avalon, Michael Bielstein came in and bought $100 worth of gift certificates to hand out around town and get people to come in. This is just one example of the many deeds done by many people to make me feel welcome. There were the ladies who brought me baked goods; that was before I couldn’t eat sugar anymore. Jon Lewis from OSU (OS?) helped book movies throughout the infancy of the Avalon. This torch was passed to Roger Paulson Theater Services in Portland. Roger and his Tonto Elsie have put his neck and other parts on the chopping block for us more times than we can count, facing down the dragon film distributors.
As with any organization, it was always the workers who made the flavor of the Avalon. Stacey, with her east coast sensibilities, could get cranky with needy customers while efficiently getting the others into the auditorium. About once a month I got emails complaining about her, but over a year after she left people would still ask me how she’s doing in her new life. Gerry, who still graces the Darkside a couple days a week, came into the Avalon from Florida soon after we opened. He is still with us, now at the Darkside, and his easygoing good nature has sustained us more times than I can count. Those brethren and sistren not mentioned specifically have contributed no less.
So it goes.
Very soon the Avalon Cinema neon sign that has burned in the window for ten years will be shut off for the last time and a lot of the lobby artifacts might find their way to the walls in the Darkside. I do not regret bringing art cinema to Corvallis. There are those who have come before me, and there will undoubtedly be those who come after me. But, no matter what happens with the future of the Darkside, I take with me the memories of the Avalon Cinema and the community who for so long supported her. I will remember those who baked with little complaint during our first few summers, before we installed air conditioning, and how people kept coming back even though the presentation for the first year sucked hard. I will remember the measuring and sawing and hammering, and teaching my daughter how to mud the sheetrock as we built the walls. And I will remember all the treasures brought in by the customers to be nailed to those walls.
Thank you for coming to the Avalon Cinema and giving me something to do for the last decade. Before I piece out the Avalon Cinema to help defray long overdue bills, I’m open to offers to take it over and do something with the space. Listen up, because this part is VERY important: It will cost you money. Also: Any plan needs to have long-term viability since the owner of the building deserves rent. So, those of you who think you can do a better job than me, here’s your chance to prove it.
Saturday, June 30th, 2007 will be the final night for the Avalon Cinema opening Corvallis, Oregon. We will be showing ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW as The Last Shows. Ticket availability will be announced later. Start preparing your costumes, and remember to give generously. We need it.
Remember what happened to the Whiteside.
Paul “The Avalon Guy” Turner
President of the “Prancing Lavender Bunnies”
Avalon Cinema/Darkside Cinema