Anyone walking down South Street will inevitably notice the multitude of shuttered storefronts that line the destination. While neighborhoods like East Passyunk and Fishtown seemed to have lured some businesses—and their patrons—away from the strip, other hopefuls know that there is still some life in South Street left.
One such entrepreneur is Bill Arrowood, curator of the recently-opened South Street Cinema. Working in conjunction with the South Street Headhouse District, Arrowood, a self-professed film buff, invites audiences who have grown tired of offerings at other theaters throughout the city to his theater.
“While Philadelphia has plenty of traditional movie theaters, it was lacking in the kind of small screening rooms that could show golden era movies or indy films on a daily basis,” Arrowood said. “South Street is the ideal location for finding unique and quirky entertainment and bringing a space like this to life has been a great new asset to the street.”
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With chairs, curtains, and even a projector on loan from the former Society Hill Playhouse, Arrowood has already managed to offer unique movie screenings four nights a week. Audiences can expect to find everything from “retro” movies (such as “Joe Versus the Volcano” and “A Christmas Story”) to obscure media (such as the critically-panned 1978 “Star Wars Holiday Special”) to, of course, local independent movies. South Street Cinema has already partnered with the Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival for “Oh…the Horror” themed Saturday nights.
And Arrowood has even bigger plans for 2018.
Beginning on Jan. 7, South Street Cinema will be the place to catch the library of RiffTrax. RiffTrax is the brainchild of Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy, who co-starred in the movie satire TV series “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” They provide downloadable comedic commentary to watch with some of cinema’s most well-known bad movies.
“As a fan of B-Movies from the time I discovered Ed Wood Jr, as a teenager, I loved the idea of bringing the team that brought the world Mystery Science Theater 3000 to our screening room and it seemed like a natural fit for the eclectic, (and movie-geek friendly) nature of our programming,” Arrowood explained.
Each RiffTrax movie night at South Street Cinema will appropriately kick off with live stand-up comedy from local Philadelphia comedians. “We think that having live comedy before the show will be a great way to get folks ready to laugh and have a great time,” Arrowood said.
On Jan. 7, the RiffTrax-infused feature will be the critically-panned TV special “Doctor Who and the Daleks.” On Jan. 14, “Super Mario Bros.”, the embarrassing attempt to turn the popular video game series into a feature-length film, will be screened. On Jan. 21, bad movie fans will be treated to “Astro Zombies,” a low-budget science fiction film that did little to entertain critics or mainstream audiences at the time of its 1968 release.
The RiffTrax screenings will join the theater’s weekly offerings, which also includes “Oh…the Horror” (Saturday nights), kids’ matinee screenings (Saturdays during the day) and Retro Fridays. Special events will also be peppered throughout January, including a Jan. 5 screening of “The Man Who Fell to Earth” (as part of Philly Loves Bowie Week), a Jan. 8 assortment of Elvis Presley movies, and, on Jan. 11, the theater’s first-ever Bollywood (Indian cinema) night.
“For us, it’s not about trying to make money, it’s about enlivening South Street and bringing folks to the area,” Arrowood said. “We hope by offering something unique to remind folks that South Street has always been and still is is that place in the city to see something you won't find anywhere else.”
If you go:
Begins Sunday, Jan. 7
South Street Cinema
327 South St.