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When I was younger, there wasn’t much I enjoyed more than ‘a night out at the movies’. Boy, has that lost its appeal — I don’t find the ‘big box’ theaters inviting, it can add up to an expensive night out, and rarely do they show films that are of interest to me. I thought my days of going out to the movies were over, but Angela and Rick Martinez have turned that around for me, with their neighborhood theater, Arthouse.

The centerpiece of the venue: a 6' x 9' screen

The venue is also available for private parties. Recently, a neighbor hosted a party there and invited several artist friends (he’s an artist himself). He showed a film and asked each artist to create a piece of work inspired by the film. A couple of those pieces are on display at Arthouse now. 

Angela and Rick really liked this idea and plan to host more screenings for artists to do film-inspired creations. And they’ve got other art/music-centric events in the works. Keep an eye-out for an upcoming event they are planning where they’ll have well-known local jazz musicians playing along with a film.

And another piece of good news regarding Arthouse: it’s not going to cost you an arm and a leg for a pleasant evening out. When I first walked in and saw a small sign with pricing, I thought I had stepped back in time. Tickets are only $10 and you can purchase a big box of candy or a soft drink for $2 (and no charge for water). At the concession at the AMC Rivercenter Theater, a small soft drink is over $5! Angela tells me they are working on getting a beer and wine license, but there are still several hoops to jump through for that. In the mean time, you can bring your own bottle if you’d like to sip libations as you watch the film.

Open less than a year, Arthouse already feels like an established neighborhood haunt. Check out their schedule, pick a film that sounds good to you, and treat yourself to a pleasant evening out!

Comfortable seating in a 'living-room' like atmosphere

Located in the Blue Star Arts Complex right next to Blue Star Contemporary, the space is perfect as an intimate theater. When I walked from the foyer into the screening room, I felt like I was stepping into a friend’s living room — one that was cozy and inviting. Comfortably seating about 30, the space is just the right size (Angela tells me they’ve had as many as 50 for a private event, but that’s a bit more than they want with COVID still posing a threat). The furniture is comfortable and well-spaced, and just the right distance from the 6’ x 9’ screen. The walls are adorned with the work of local San Antonio artists — exhibits that change every few weeks.  Angela fired up the projector while I was there and we watched the opening scene of The Darjeeling Limited — it was crystal clear and the volume was just right. Actually, everything about the place felt ‘just right’.

The Martinez’s are film buffs, and carefully select the independent, classic and foreign films they screen — ranging from true classics like From Here to Eternity, the original A Star is Born, and Bonnie and Clyde to Indies like Lady Bird and lesser-known films like The Story of a Three Day Pass. Angela and Rick are always researching films.  She told me “we pick the ones that we like or that have some kind of cultural theme or relevance”. For example, they worked with a guest curator, San Antonio artist Barbara Felix, to select films by Black directors or featuring Black actors to show in February, during Black History Month. And they’ve got more ‘themed’ films planned — for example, they’ll be screening science-fiction films for a couple of weeks at some point over the summer.

Angela explains that “picking films is tricky — we never really know which films will draw a crowd and be a big hit, and which ones won’t.” They were recently pleasantly surprised to screen Buffalo 66 to a full-house on a week night. “I wasn’t expecting that” Angela quipped with a chuckle. Then there was another recent screening that she thought would be popular — and only one person showed up. Weather, she believes, was the problem that night. But, she mentioned “the guy enjoyed it!”

The work of local artists adorns the walls

Jane Gennarelli is co-editor of LNF Weekly. She also edits the Lavaca & Friends weekly arts and entertainment newsletter.

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