Or is the better question: Does anybody care? After persistent rumors of its imminent closing in the last few years, the Oak Street Cinema is finally done. I know I'm not breaking this; it was announced earlier this week. But now that it's been official for a few days, I'm wondering - where is the outrage? Some bland articles that read like obituaries and a passive U of M editorial, and that's it?
I plan on doing a longer post dedicated to the Oak before it closes after the festival in May, but for the time being I'll just say that I'm pretty much stunned that the fight is over so quickly and quietly after what had looked like a resurgent year. The last time it was really threatened, in 2006, I hadn't yet moved back here, but a movie could have been made about the dramatic turmoil happening within Minnesota Film Arts , led by the one and only (85 year-old) Al Milgrom. Well, working with Al when I was volunteering at the festival last year, I wouldn't say he's lost any of his passion or his spirit. The problem is that this time it was Al vs. The Developers, and you know that unless this is a movie (Be Kind Rewind, anyone?), The Developers always win. Even Save the Oak Street has nothing to say anymore.
I walk or drive by the theater twice daily on my way to work, and I've really come to enjoy it this last year that I've been back - the free screenings, the festival, the one-night-only shows, and even an appearance by Crispin Glover (!) that I skipped last month. I'm not even holding it against MFA that I saw early preview screenings of three terrible "Terror" movies in a row last year (The Kingdom, Rendition, Lions for Lambs).
Since 1916, that tiny spot of real estate has featured movies that simply can't be seen anywhere else (Why did I miss Manos: The Hands of Fate Last Year last year again?). Now the only films that will be shown will be in some spoiled college kid's ultramodern room on the 5th floor who's probably watching Meet the Spartans for the 23rd time.
That's where we are now. Hope Al Milgrom has some tricks up his sleeve for the future of MFA...