Features and Columns · Movies

Movie Houses of Worship: Olympia Film Society’s Capitol Theater

By  · Published on August 11th, 2013

“Movie Houses of Worship” is a regular feature spotlighting our favorite movie theaters around the world, those that are like temples of cinema catering to the most religious-like film geeks. This week, we look at a theater in need at the suggestion of one of its volunteers. If you’d like to suggest or submit a place you regularly worship at the altar of cinema, please email our weekend editor.

The Capitol Theater (and the Olympia Film Society)

Location: 206 5th Avenue SE, Olympia, WA

Opened: October 7, 1924 (home to OFS since 1986, owned by OFS since 2008)

No. of screens: 1

Current first-run titles: Much Ado About Nothing and Hannah Arendt

Why It Needs Help: This week we have another Movie House of Worship in need of digital projection equipment. It’s the trend of the year, if we can call it that. I guess it’s not a “trend” if it’s a necessity, right? Sadly, for a number of reasons, cinemas all over the country are having to suddenly jump into digital exhibition due to Hollywood’s decision to do away with film prints. The saddest reason is that so many of the best cinemas are small, independent and/or non-profit theaters that don’t easily have the money to make the transition. Many have been going to Kickstarter and other crowdfunding services, but for their Capitol Theater home, the Olympia Film Society is doing it the old fashioned way with fundraising events and by taking regular donations.

One such fundraising event just went on sale this weekend. Actor Elliott Gould will grace the OFS with his appearance in October for a screening of M*A*S*H plus two other special occasions, including a dinner the night before. So far, the OFS Digital Cinema Campaign has raised $22k of its $65k goal, much of it from local businesses, OFS members and via concert series and film fests, like April’s Environmental Film Festival. The 30th Annual Olympia Film Festival, which takes place November 8–17, will likely be another big time for fundraising.

Repertory Programming: Aside from M*A*S*H, I don’t see much coming up in the way of old films, but they aren’t uncommon. Last month they had an interactive texting-friendly MST3K-style screening of the cult classic Reefer Madness. And in May there was a double feature of E.T. and Alien in conjunction with the local drive-in, which was also raising money for digital conversion.

Special Events: Concerts, and not just those part of the fundraising. But many are in support of something, such as next Saturday’s For Peace in Tibet Concert and this month’s benefit for Friends of Mia, a charity for kids with cancer. And additional film events include one-off screenings of documentaries with director Q&As. This month there’s a showing of Faythe Levine and Sam Macon’s Sign Painters, after which the filmmakers will be on stage with local sign painters.

Why I Worship Here: “I love the film society because, as a cultural center of our community, it brings thought-provoking and mesmerizing films and events that you’d have to go all the way to Portland or Seattle for otherwise. As a teen, it also serves as a place where I feel I belong, where I can discuss the works of Ozon and Miyazaki with people who actually care, rather than to my eye-rolling peers. My personal favorite tradition of ours is All Freakin Night, a 12-hour extravaganza of pulpy thrillers and old horror movies that runs during our film festival.” – Anonymous OFS volunteer.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.