Charlottesville 'Microcinema' Opening Saturday

January 18, 2013

Movie lovers will soon have a new place to catch a film in Charlottesville. The Bantam Theater is opening its doors to the public Saturday evening.

It's been a few months in the making for business partners Jason Lappa and Jayson Whitehead, but the co-founders are ready for the East Market Street theater's innaugural screening.

Even with so many other theater options in the area -- some recently changing their game to stay afloat -- Lappa says there couldn't have been a better time for them to pop up on the film scene.

"Everything is up in the air," he said. "We think we have a shot, so we're excited about it."

The men are banking on the unique experience they hope to bring their customers on the 140-inch diagonal screen.

"The movies we're offering [are] for the kind of person that is really passionate about film and wants to experience something a little different, in that you likely won't have heard of our films or the people that are making them," said Whitehead.

The "microcinema," which seats 125-150 people, will feature filmmakers on a micro budget. Lappa says that makes their showings different from the Hollywood blockbusters played at other theaters in town.

"They don't have a lot of money to put into effects. They're in the trenches making movies by themselves," he said. "There's a different sort of feel to those films. I feel like they have more heart and they're a lot richer."

And the co-founders say they hope the small space, lined with cozy couches and tables and chairs, will make for a more intimate viewing experience.

"Unlike your usual theater experience where you're very much separated from the process, you can actually come here and hopefully the filmmaker might even be sitting right next to you and then you can go up and talk to them right after the screening," Whitehead said.

Whitehead says the idea is to make The Bantam Theater a hub for local filmmakers. Future plans include "open screen nights," where local filmmakers can showcase their current projects and get feedback, as well as a mini film festival specifically for filmmakers in the area.

Saturday's featured film is "The Battery," which Whitehead described as the story of two baseball players trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic, zombie-ridden world.

The film's writer/director/actor, Jeremy Gardner, will attend the screening and participate in a post-show Q&A. Doors open at 6:00 p.m.

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