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COLUMN: Bloomington theaters offer unconventional spaces for movie buffs



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Patrons of a Cicada Cinema film event watch a film. Cicada Cinema is a pop-up cinema collective based in Bloomington. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

Bloomington has been a center for arts for decades, but its film scene stands out as especially extensive. From the most well-known Southern Indiana theaters to local hole-in-the-wall film spaces, here are some of the best ways to dip your toes into film in Bloomington.

Plan Nine Film Emporium

Plan Nine is packed from wall-to-wall with rows and rows of DVDs and VHS’s organized into amusingly specific categories such as “Non-Satanic Malevolent Children.”

The video rental place will take you back to the good old days of lining up at Blockbuster to grab your weekend flicks.

But Plan Nine goes beyond any Blockbuster I’ve seen by including work by local filmmakers and rare foreign and cult films, some of which are no longer distributed.

Plan Nine also picks up where Netflix falls short in eclectic variety.

As you can see in the category “Non-Satanic Malevolent Children,” they offer a wide array of old horror films for fans of fear and terror looking for something that deviates from the mainstream.

Plan Nine also offers regular film screenings, some of which are organized by Video Boom, an organization that spreads its organizers’ love for VHS and eccentric film.

And don’t worry. If you get lost in the rows of films, Plan Nine’s friendly and geeky staff is always ready to jump in with suggestions.

Buskirk-Chumley Theater

Stepping into the Buskirk-Chumley is like taking a step into the 1920s, with its old-time Hollywood glamour and the old-fashioned charm of its brightly-lit marquee.

The theater offers a year-long program of music, comedy, theater, dance, community events and, of course, film.

The venue also has a rich history that dates back to 1922. The theater once recovered from a fire in 1933 that destroyed most of the surrounding block.

The Buskirk-Chumley attracts national-touring musicians, bands and comedians and is home to several major film festivals, including the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, PRIDE Film Festival and the Banff Mountain Film Festival.

Cicada Cinema

Pop-up cinema collective Cicada Cinema is another unconventional theater experience for film nuts in Bloomington.

Cicada Cinema, which screens one film every month at different local venues, was created in 2016 by five self-described cinephiles. This is a pop-up made by film lovers for film lovers.

The team of volunteers that run the cinema focuses on screening movies they feel are underrepresented, which makes Cicada Cinema a niche outlet for the creative and unconventional.

The Starlite Drive-In Theater

Transport yourself back to the 1950s by driving up to Starlite Drive-In and grabbing some blankets and popcorn while lounging on lawn chairs in front of a giant, outdoor screen.

Starlite has been open since 1955 and still offers tickets far cheaper than conventional theaters.

The theater also includes an old-fashioned diner-style concessions area with checkered black-and-white tile flooring.

Starlite captures the sweet sense of nostalgia that is inherent in any good drive-in theater. And I’m telling you, nothing beats sitting on the roof of your car with friends, food and a great movie.

IU Fine Arts Theaters

The Ryder, another nomadic film collective that rotates between several local venues, often screens international, independent and classic films at the two screening rooms at the IU Fine Arts Theater.

The Ryder prides itself on offering activist documentaries and major festival winners, including Oscar-nominated shorts during their annual Oscar Shorts Festival in February.

The organization’s monthly film program can be found in The Ryder Magazine, which is a free arts and pop culture magazine that is distributed throughout Bloomington.

IU Cinema

You can’t talk about film in Bloomington without mentioning the IU Cinema.

Located in the heart of IU’s campus, the IU Cinema screens more than 120 classic, international, culturally significant and critically acclaimed films every semester.

The cinema also invites filmmakers and film scholars to speak regularly.

And with its old-fashioned bright red movie theater seats, period details, ornate Thomas Hart Benton Indiana Murals and inspired color scheme, the IU Cinema takes moviegoers back in time and gives them an experience that goes beyond the movie screen.

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