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Editorial: Amherst Cinema perseveres with help from friends

A group of people exit a theater after seeing "Chasing Ice" Saturday at Amherst Cinema.
JERREY ROBERTS

A group of people exit a theater after seeing "Chasing Ice" Saturday at Amherst Cinema. JERREY ROBERTS

As a story on today’s front page explains, the success of the Amherst Cinema is very much a community accomplishment. The nonprofit theater’s managers are candid in saying they could not keep the place going — and growing — without sustaining memberships. It is, as they note, a film version of public TV or radio in that it relies on the support of those who couldn’t imagine losing it.

We hope a lot of people feel that way.

Rather than be buffeted and discouraged by tough market forces, the cinema’s executive director, Carol Johnson, and her board are pursuing fruitful new projects and partnerships. A key one is education. It is not surprising that people who seek out this theater’s selections want to expand their minds as well as raise the hairs on the backs of their necks.

They may not know it, but on some weekdays the theater gives itself over entirely to the cause of education, when third-graders from around the region — an estimated 1,375 this year — come not just to see films but to learn how to critique them. Given the volume of moving images that wash over them, it is vital that young people learn to be critical media consumers.

In his story today, reporter Nick Grabbe notes plans by the cinema to update its digital technology and expand to a fourth, 25-seat theater in a nearby space. The added location will enable the cinema to continue to show movies that aren’t drawing enough to justify its larger theaters, but can still attract audiences.

As with public radio and TV, the cinema wants to hear from its faithful. As of now, some 2,760 members, along with financial gifts from others, help the theater raise about $300,000 a year. Without it, the Amherst Cinema might go the way of the silent movie — and no one wants that.

Those with high-speed Internet connections today can, with a click, order up more movies than they could ever sit through. But the Amherst Cinema is showing itself to be an able competitor.

Ken Rosenthal, who chairs the cinema’s board of directors, is right to say that there is nothing quite like watching a movie “in a dark theater with a big screen and a wonderful sound system.” People do that together. That’s one of the lasting appeals of going out to the movies, and it doesn’t seem to have flagged yet.

Snow season duty

With winter looking like winter around the region, it’s worth noting that people should do more than bundle up against the cold when it snows.

Most urban areas require shopkeepers to clear areas in front of their businesses. That mandate is important because it enables people to travel their regular routes, including those who use wheelchairs and others who simply feel a little more tentative when out walking this time of year. Snow and ice make safe footing tough for all ages; last week, the Amherst elementary schools banned sledding during recesses for now because patches of weathered and trodden snow have developed a dangerous crust.

Clearing sidewalks is not only the law, it is thoughtful and neighborly.

Related

Amherst Cinema continues to thrive in age of Netflix

Friday, January 18, 2013

AMHERST — While many independent movie theaters have closed in recent years, the Amherst Cinema has survived. It has branched out into educational programming, and this year it will add a fourth screen and go digital. Twenty years ago, three Northampton theaters showed movies — and now there are none. The Amherst Cinema, for many decades a downtown destination, closed …

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