Reel Strange

Seeing the big picture in the Monkey Show Movie Theater.

The idea behind The Monkey Show Movie Theater -- a place "to watch a really strange movie with a small and intimate audience" -- is not a new one. But unless one considers X-rated theaters (where "intimate" is understood much differently), it is one that has been largely sidelined in favor of the anonymous megaplex, a place where the only strange movie is one without Julia Roberts. Before this week, your best hope for weird local cinema was not in theaters; it was on cable.

The Monkey Show changes that. In a restored 1949 building on Grand Avenue, the theater was the inspiration of artist Jeff Cochran, whose film The Disappearance of Baron Dixon was reviewed in this space last month. A locally staged independent film about alien abduction, Baron Dixon qualifies as "strange" by any criteria; still, it drew more than 500 people to its première, and more have clamored to see it since. So it seems fitting that the film will play at the Monkey Show's grand opening and for several weeks thereafter.

The theater has been open on the most casual basis for a few weeks, mostly for friends of the managing partners. That's given them time to work out some bugs.

"About a half-hour before our very first show, we blew out some fuses with the popcorn machine," says Cochran. "But everything's working now."

The popcorn, he notes, is organic.

The theater seats 35 eclectically: in love seats, La-Z-Boys and "funky kind of '70s furniture." The sound system, engineered by Ryan Ferguson, is professional. So, too, will be the movies, procured through a "microcinema" distributor.

"It's like watching movies in a really big living room," Ferguson notes in his grand opening announcement. "The sound system is great and the movies aren't bad, either."

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