Arts and Entertainment

Bainbridge cinema company brings big screen to Bay Street

By BILL MICKELSON

What’s Up

The independent film reels are rolling on Bay Street.

In addition to the 10 mainstream screens at the Regal theater available just off of Mile Hill Drive, now the downtown core of Port Orchard will be offering two screens of independent, classic and art films at The Orchard, a newly refurbished cinema that occupies the same building as the town’s old Plaza Twin.

Earlier this summer, the building’s owner, Bob Geiger, had been using the old theater’s marquee as a sort of a massive classified ad, calling for help wanted: movie theater reconstruction.

Between the lines of that public proposal, Sam Granato and Jeff Brein, co-owners of Bainbridge Entertainment Enterprises Inc./Far Away Productions which own and run Bainbridge Cinemas and Bremerton’s Olympic Cinemas among six others around the state, saw potential for a South Kitsap version of another of the company’s popular theaters, the historic Lynwood.

Any SK-dwelling fans of the quaint and quirky arts/independent film house located at the south end of Bainbridge Island are likely jumping up and down in their seats right now, because the likewise historic Orchard cinema, right off Bay Street in downtown PO, will cut drive times immensely whenever they’re in the mood for an independent movie experience.

“Traditionally arts and independent films play to older audiences, and traditionally arts and independent films play to a better educated demographic,” Brein said. “When you look at Port Orchard and some of the surrounding communities, there’s a very diverse population that we feel encompasses and includes those audiences.”

It’s a real possibility that the Orchard’s audience will encompass an even larger demographic as interim manager Mike Pitts said during the week preceding the theater’s opening, an unusually large amount of kids had been calling in to reserve tickets.

The Orchard opened with Julie Taymor’s movie musical “Across the Universe” and Wes Anderson’s adventure comedy “The Darjeeling Limited” to a diverse audience which began with a youthful touch, the South Kitsap High School jazz band struck a chord to celebrate the theater’s first showing Dec. 14.

Somewhat impressively, Brein, Granato and company have only been in residence at the building since November. As a bevy of refurbishment and a few coats of fresh paint have restored the theater to a comfortable setting, Brein said, now “the big challenge we always have is how to program the theater.”

While The Orchard will be focused on the independent, art and fringe films, that’s only half of the process.

“We have to learn the likes and dislikes of the market,” Brein said. “There isn’t much that we put on screen (at the Lynwood) that we don’t have an audience for ... down there (in PO), we don’t know.”

A few things the Bainbridge Entertainment/Far Away folks are well aware of is that competition with the national-sponsored Regal multi-plex is futile, while being in a more quaint and modest space also gives The Orchard a high card or two.

“I’m not afraid of people not being downtown, I’m not afraid of Regal up on the hill,” Brein said. “We can do things at a small theater that they can’t do at one of those big multi-plexes.”

The Orchard’s intimate setting allows for a unique touch from the ability to easily chat with customers in the lobby after a feature to having real butter in the popcorn.

The historic digs can also offer movie-goers “an experience almost akin to stepping back in time,” Brein said.

The building now housing The Orchard was built as a single screen theater in the 1920s and has housed a few different theaters during its lifetime Ñ most recently The Plaza Twin second-run theater which closed down in 2005. In fashioning the newest, The Orchard, Brein, Granato and company wanted to freshen up the place.

“But we didn’t want to do so at the expense of destroying the ambience of what was already there,” Brein said. “There’s a fine line you walk.”

There’s a definite attraction to historic qualities in a movie theater, as evidenced by the success of the Lynwood, however movie-goers also expect modern convenience.

Ultimately, it’s what’s on the screen that will bring people into the seats.

While The Orchard’s official grand opening is slated for later in January, the theater will be hosting two shows per day up until Christmas and four shows per day after that with films like the Bob Dylan bio-drama “I’m Not There,” the crime thriller “Before the Devil Knows Your Dead” and Nicole Kidman’s latest romantic comedy “Margot at the Wedding” upcoming.

After the first of the year, the theater will structure a schedule that will likely feature four-shows-a-day on weekends and two-a-day on weekdays.

Tickets will be $6.75 matinees, senior citizens, kids and military and $8.75 general admission.

For more info stop by the theater on 811 Bay St. in Port Orchard, or go online to www.oasiscinemas.com

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