Sometime over Christmas break, I started receiving Facebook invites to a place called an Erie Movie House. Intrigued, and being a lover of film, I looked forward to coming back to Gannon so I might actually have a chance to make it out to the place. As luck would have it, owner Craig Stadler reached out and invited me and another Edge writer (Adam Miller) to come see double feature and explore Erie’s newest DIY entertainment venue.
From the outside, the Erie Movie House looks almost unremarkable aside from a small sign on the front of the building and a marquee out front. Upon closer inspection, the front window reveals a section of vintage, 60’s-esque diner booths set up for people to eat, converse, and play games. Games play an important role at the movie house; once you pay the small admission fee (typically $5 or a donation), you are welcome to spend the waiting time between doors opening and the actual film by playing one of several table games. Game options include Cards Against Humanity, Munchkin, and what looked like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots or remote-controlled cars of some kind as well as pinball, air hockey and arcade machines, all set to free play.
Just to the left, past a small velvet curtain used to shield the entrance while the films play are 30 or so theatre-style seats facing a large projector screen. As one visitor described it, the place feels “intimate, but not intimidating.” That night, Adam and I were there to enjoy features close to both of our amateur stand-up comedians hearts, first from Bill Hicks and the second from the legendary George Carlin.
After several rounds of Mortal Kombat that happened to fall in my favor, I stopped by the inexpensive concessions counter and bought myself some popcorn and a drink for the show. It was then that everything clicked and feelings rushed me all at once: this was my kind of joint. Not only was this my kind of joint, this was my safe haven; I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to tell everyone or no one about the good news that was the Erie Movie House’s existence. Having kind conversation with the owners, Craig and Nicole, and spending well under $10 for my time there, I realized that I was already set up for a better evening than most of my peers. I wanted this to be the place my friends and I hung out on the weekends, blowing off the steam of the week with friendly conversation, consecutive rounds of air hockey and classic film experiences.
At the moment, Craig and Nicole pick the films themselves, so the shows are very reflective of the couple’s tastes. While they can choose to pay licensing fees for big-budget Hollywood flicks, they have a much more solid interest in playing older films through the use of public domain and indie flicks whose owners have provided the theatre with permission. Movies like “Fantastic Planet,” “Dead Alive,” and “Cannibal! The Musical,” along with Vincent Price double features and holiday classics like “Miracle on 31st Street” are typical for the Erie Movie House. Recently, the owners have branched out to include projects like stand-up comedy and classic concerts as part of the experience.
The Erie Movie House gave me a feeling I haven’t felt for quite some time; it’s a feeling only comparable to other local venues, like Basement Transmissions and the Poet’s Hall. That feeling is a sense of community. The Erie Movie House is a place for locals to come together and enjoy the company of others movie-lovers. And if I’ve convinced you to give the place a go, you’re likely to see me there.
Scheduled events can be found on the Erie Movie House’s Facebook page.