Two Left, What Next? A Short Interview with Brian Knighten of The Broad Theater

Photo Credit: John Sellars

Author’s Note: There’s still Zeitgeist Theatre & Lounge and Chalmette Movies just outside Orleans Parish in the New Orleans Metro Area, as well as mobile units like New Orleans Film Society and Shotgun Cinema. Great venues for moviegoers, great groups for local film culture!

The news of Cinebarre Canal Place closing hit hard yesterday for many a local cinephile and moviegoer. There’s been an outpouring of sentiment from people all around the city online. While some audience members have spoken out in facebook comment threads about the unimpressive state of this cinema in recent memory, many others have recalled fond memories back when it was an art-house owned by Landmark.

I can remember going to the New Orleans Film Festival one year, enjoying movies like the restoration of classic film Killer of Sheep and new release (at the time) Eastern Promises. Where one auditorium was big and meant for lectures, another would be small, tight, and intimate. While making the trip all the way down Canal St. could be considered a hassle by a few, it was worth it for the movies and the theater.

Now, in Orleans Parish, there are but two active full-time theaters: The Broad and The Prytania. Both locations offer plenty of diverse and eclectic programming every week, comfortably existing along with one another. But, how will the Canal Place closing change things? Will it change things? What more can we do?

I asked Brian Knighten of The Broad a few questions to pick his mind on this most breaking story:

Bill Arceneaux: As a lover of local cinema first, what memories do you have of Canal Place?

Brian Knighten: I have more memories of Landmark than of the Theatres at Canal Place. I was never a fan of the $100 movie.

BA: The news of Cinebarre Canal Place closing just hit, but I’m sure The Broad will be feeling an influx of audiences very soon. Does this change your approach to local engagement and running an entertainment business? Are you considering new amenities to match what Canal Place had?

BK: Their closing doesn’t change much for us. We will keep our current programming model with a mix of Hollywood and independent films. I personally do not like the dine-in movie theater model so we won’t be offering that anytime soon! A movie should be seen in the dark, in a big room with lots of other people, not with waiters scurrying about with the lights on.

BA: Now with only two full-time movie houses in Orleans Parish, competition for moviegoers in this space must be higher than before. Of course “the more the merrier” when it comes to theaters, but for now, what issues if any do you anticipate cropping up in this dueling landscape?

BK: Luckily the three theaters had always co-existed peacefully so I suspect that will continue.

BA: I often worry about the demise of moviegoing as it is, especially when looking at the trends our metro multiplexes have been following in catering to families wanting more “bang” for their buck. What can The Broad, The Prytania, and any future city theaters do to survive and thrive against the chains?

BK: Customer service, customer service, customer service. What The Broad and Prytania have offered to customers is friendly, local service from businesses that are embedded in our communities. New Orleanians recognize the value of local ownership and they support it, and I think that no matter who moves in to fill the void of Canal Place, local will still win out.

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