Welcoming Side Door Cinema Club

Almost nine months ago, Louisville staple Wild and Woolly Video closed its doors. When that happened, Louisville lost a lot more than a physical video rental location. Wild and Wooley was an oasis for film buffs, a mecca for limited release features that would otherwise have never made it to Derby City. While it is true that such films occasionally show up on video on demand services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, it is difficult to count on, and the prices of rental can be exorbitant.

In an attempt to fill the void left by the venerated video store, Robert Seng, a local high school teacher and film aficionado, created the catchy and alliterative Side Door Cinema Club. The group meets intermittently at Clifton’s Pizza on Frankfort Avenue, and through Seng’s leadership and selection, they watch movies that are not Hollywood blockbusters but still serve as fodder for trenchant and worthwhile discussion.

“At 16, most kids are saving up for a car, but I was saving up for was a $400 Quasar VCR,” recalls Seng, relating his lifelong film geek status. “Movies are always going to be a social phenomenon, and Wild and Woolly was a place where you could go and actually talk to someone about the movie, maybe get a personalized recommendation.” Side Door Cinema Club, so far, has done its best to fulfill that intention.

The inaugural meeting of the club was just this past October with a screening of The Seven Five, a 2014 documentary on real-life, dirty Brooklyn cop, Michael Dowd. Seng attempts to do more than just show movies and talk about them, however. After a screening of the 2012 remake of Red Dawn, Seng had Louisville native and screenwriter of the film lead a discussion about the film in general as well as the screenwriting process. Also, Seng was able to get the local chapter of the Make a Wish foundation involved with a special screening of Batkid Begins, a 2015 documentary dealing with a, then, terminally ill child whose dying wish was be Batman for a day. That special screening was only one of many such ones by which Seng would like to give back to the community in some way.

The screening room at Clifton’s Pizza is appropriately dark, perfect for an authentic cinema experience. There are tarps hung over the windows to block out the view of the street. There is also a 12 foot screen complete with surround sound system. “I want to try and capture the spirit of the old Vogue that Louisville used to have,” says Seng. Prior screenings have been on Monday nights, when Clifton’s Pizza is closed, in order to ensure that ambient noise and other distractions are kept down to a minimum. Mark Langley, owner of Clifton’s for 26 years says, “My end of the bargain was to provide food and drink to the people who are coming to the movie. We offer a limited menu, but people’s ticket price includes a pizza and salad buffet.”

Even though Side Door Cinema has been active for a short time, the club already has its fair share of regulars. One such patron named Maura Enright has nothing but wonderful things to say about her experiences. “I’m not a movie expert. It’s just convenient for me. I live in the neighborhood, and the screening room is nice and cozy. I had never seen any of the movies Rob was showing, but they’re all great. He has great taste.”

The most recent screening at the time of this printing was of the 2014 film Predestination, a stylish time travel flick starring Ethan Hawke and unknown but prodigiously talented newcomer, Sarah Snook. As stipulated by SWANK, the licensing agency Seng uses to screen the movies, he cannot advertise the titles of movies that will be featured in subsequent screens. He can however, create Facebook events, and he advises anyone interested in attending the club in the future to like the Side Door Cinema Club page on the social media platform in order to stay in the know on not only the films but on the acquisition of tickets.

It seems that this club is a worthy addition to Louisville and a more than adequate way to give people their indie film fix. Look up the screenings and attend to keep this fledgling group going. You’ll get to watch a thought-provoking movie and eat some tasty pizza to boot. What do you have to lose? VT