Awards & Events

Pop-Up Cinema to Show Indie, Classic Films

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — When the Paramount Theatre closed in 1976, it was the last downtown movie house that offered a regular schedule.

David Pokrivnak, founder of The Little Youngstown Cinema, is looking to change that. Beginning in late March, Pokrivnak says, classic movies will be shown twice a month in Erie Terminal Place.

With a licensing arrangement with Janus Films and the Criterion Collection, the Erie Terminal will host its first screening, a doubleheader featuring the 1921 Buster Keaton short film, “Th Goat,” and the 1946 Robert Siodmak film, “The Killers,” on March 21 in the Nove Gatto Arts and Event Space.

“Classic films and foreign films are germane not only to my interests, but the downtown culture in general needs arts to flourish,” Pokrivnak says. “This project is important to me and I’m trying to introduce films that I think are important for people to see and be witness to.”

When the Austintown Cinema, a theater that showed independent movies, closed in 2006, Pokrivnak says he felt something was suddenly missing in the Valley. A few years later, he began showing films in a side room at Cedar’s Lounge, dubbing it “The Little Cedar’s Theater.” When the longtime downtown gathering place closed, Pokrivnak says he abandoned the idea.

After touring Erie Terminal and “just falling in love with it,” Pokrivnak decided that he would resurrect his project, this time as The Little Youngstown Cinema.

“We’ve been having different artists, galleries and private parties in Nove Gatto,” says Dominic C. Marchionda, “and he wanted to check it out. One Saturday morning, he toured it and decided that it would be a good place to start small and see where it goes.”

Marchionda is director of operations of NYO Property Group, which owns Erie Terminal.

Marchionda is quick to point out the film history that Youngstown has. The Warner Brothers lived near Wick Park in the early 20th century and opened one of their first theaters downtown and several theaters that used be in or near the downtown.

“We have remnants of the State Theatre. Unfortunately, the Palace Theater is gone along with the Paramount Theatre,” he notes. “We’ve been missing that cultural fabric. Maybe this, on a smaller scale, can bring people together to fill that void.”

The Little Youngstown Cinema will not show first-run or even second-run releases, instead sticking to indie films and cinema classics, Pokrivnak says.

“This approach I’m taking with classic films is kind of a niche thing. We’re not going to stream ‘Star Wars’ or ‘American Sniper’ as they come out. That’s not what this is about,” he says. “It’s more about the archives and what the younger generation hasn’t been exposed to and giving them the opportunity to see the movies in the context in which they ought to be seen.”

Through a sponsorship from Criterion and Janus, distributor of the Criterion Collection, Pokrivnak has thousands of movies to choose from for his biweekly showings.

“It’s a broad collection. They pick films based on culture relevance and critical acclaim,” he says. “It’s so vast that it’s hard to say what kind of genres we’ll do. We’ll do quite a variety and I want to keep it fresh to appeal to a broader audience because older films are a niche interest.”

Movies in the collection are restored versions of the original film and cover works from French new wave films in the 1940s to more modern movies such as “RoboCop” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Pokrivnak says he plans to focus on art house-style films rather than mainstream movies, but is aiming to keep a “good mix” of the two.

“The pace of classic films is significantly slower and more nuanced than a lot of modern films. I can see why it wouldn’t be for everybody,” he says. “There’s a need for some more cultural things around the city, especially things for people interested in cinema and high art. Even though it is a niche thing, I think there are enough people out there that would appreciate this kind of thing.”

Movies in the public domain will also be screened occasionally, as Pokrivnak notes that most of Alfred Hitchcock’s ouevre is free for public use.

Marchionda views the project as an opportunity for downtown Youngstown to set itself apart from the suburban areas through entertainment.

“What’s happening downtown is innately different from what’s happening in the suburbs. It’s good to mix it up and offer something different,” he says.“

While he isn’t sure what the reaction to The Little Youngstown Cinema will be, Pokrivnak says he sees it evolving and gaining strength.

“The goal is have it every weekend by next year. If that’s the case, there’s an opportunity to work with regional and local filmmakers to do screenings of their films and get them more involved directly with the community,” he says.

Pictured: David Pokrivnak, founder of The Little Youngstown Cinema.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.