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Can the Amp Survive?

July 29, 2009

throw_down_your_heart

After their first seven months of being open, a trip to the Amp continues to mean one thing – a private screening for you and your friends. Although the empty theater is enjoyable for those who like to watch a movie in quiet, for those of us who have grown fond of the new theater in town, it is a bit disconcerting. Running a theater takes quite a bit of energy and money and for what audience?

Purchased by Nova Cinemas in 2008, the Amp reopened with the same name as the former theater but as part of a new company. The first theater did not last a year when it opened a couple of years ago and for many in Oxford the reason they hadn’t gone was simply they forget about it being “out there.” The location is somewhat desolate still as the Oxford Commons, a planned shopping area, has sat mostly empty due to the economy. The theater is surrounded only by a Wendy’s and is located north of town. Still others when asked confess they did not know it was even open again.

A common complaint amongst those of us that have made it to the theater on a regular basis, The Amp consistently brings a variety of programming from cult classics, new indie films to second run new studio films. Christian themed films to schlocky B-horror films are also staples for the theater. And yet, even with a little something for everyone, The Amp often sits silent, the reels not turning as there is no one in the theater to view. And when there is, the $5 tickets can’t appear to cover the cost of running a film when only one or two tickets have been purchased.

Last night I went with friends to see “Throw Down Your Heart,” a great indie documentary about Bela Fleck’s journey to record an album in Africa. The film has seen great success in Oxford with several people returning numerous times over its four week run. The film has just been held over for a fifth week due to its popularity. Yet, last night I was one of three people in the theater. In fact, I have only been to two screenings at The Amp that had a good crowd, “Night of the Loup Garou” and “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” So where is everyone?

One new Amp lover, Rodney Eslinger, grew frustrated that when he went to the theater, in the afternoon or at night, he was often the only one there. So he began a Facebook event to start spreading the word to 300 of his closest friends.

The description of the event states:

“I don’t know how many of you have been to The Amp, but it is a fantastic theater. $5 for a ticket, they have great deals on food, drinks (yes beer and wine), and much more. I just went for the first time and the place is amazing… but dead. No one goes and it is cheap and a blast. So I am saying Help get the Amp rolling, go at least once in the next 30 days. Invite as many people as you can to this group. I challenge all of you to have a good time at the Amp this month.”

Some friends wrote comments saying they agreed and pointing out what they loved about the theater including the famous bucket-o-beer. Others said they had been meaning to go there but hadn’t gotten a chance.

“I was shocked when I came back on a Saturday and noted yet again that I was the only person sitting in the room when they turned on the projectors for me,” Eslinger said, “After talking with several members of the staff I found that it was  a regular occurrence for the amp to be empty like that.”

But Eslinger is the first to admit that one problem for The Amp could be helped by showing more new releases on their release dates.

“If the Amp gets to the point where it is hosting new releases on their release dates it will create a little bit of friendly competition for the Malco, and lets face it competition is always a good thing in a free market,” Eslinger said, “Plus who doesn’t like getting good food, drink, and a movie all in one sitting.”

However, while the Amp may have quite a few studio releases, Malco has first refusal for new films in Oxford, making it difficult for the theater to be able to show new films right away. But for those who want to save money, waiting three or four weeks to see new releases at The Amp can be a great savings.

The other way the theater attempts to provide alternative programming is by bringing in live performances including local musicians such as last week’s show of Silas N Da Books. Amp also brings shows like “Grease” and “Rocky Horror Picture Show” for fun sing along events.

Manager Doug Delissa is also quite open to suggestions for possible screenings or other events. Many a film that I have requested he has attempted to bring to Oxford, an advantage for many of us that love indie film. Having that support and a place to screen in comfortable chairs should be cherished and supported.

New this fall will be Monday Night Football on the large outdoor screen. Other events include ballroom dancing, spaghetti nights and a variety of other discounted programs.

For showtimes and other information about The Amp, visit www.novacinemas.com.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 29, 2009 7:17 pm

    It’s sad to see such an apparently cool venue not do well, but I guess I’m part of the problem. It’s up the street from me & I’ve never been there. However, I guess I’m not really a movie person… very picky: among my favs are the likes of Dead Poets Society, Pollock, Basquiat, Big Bad Love, Amelie, & The Straight Story.
    Seems like my kind of movies never make it here. But then I’m reluctant to sit for 2 hrs, too.
    As for the Bela Fleck film, I saw them at Larrys in the late 90s and they were awesome… the film description just didn’t jive for me.
    Maybe show some Pink Floyd with a laser show…. I don’t know…
    The whole music scene here has also changed, as have other entertainment events….an overkill of folksie country rock gospely stuff which doesn’t get me away from my iPod or outa the house.

    • July 30, 2009 6:13 pm

      You know Gara the Amp has outdoor screenings of stuff which is nice because I am an antsy person so I can get up and stand behind the seats and not feel awkward at all – so that is kind of nice, plus they have some fun stuff like sing-a-long Grease or Rocky Horror outdoors.

  2. July 29, 2009 10:39 am

    Thanks for writing this. I know that you know my desire for the Amp to do well (since its fate is now intertwined with the Orchard’s for a season), but I really do think it could be a great thing for Oxford. Not to mention the fact that I really do like Doug and want him to succeed.

    My hope is that after the lazy Oxford summer, the theater will pick up and business will take off as students come back to town and enjoy the variety of events there.

    • July 29, 2009 11:11 am

      I agree – fall could help especially if students keep telling their friends! And true, I didn’t mention that there are church services in the theater on Sundays. Plus Doug has been pretty helpful to local filmmakers to screen their films for weeks and at lots of different times, that is great to see.

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