Common sense holds that the best businesses identify an unmet need, and fill it. Turns out, before last August, Missoula had some unmet needs. We wanted to see more Montana-made indie movies and documentaries. We wanted screenings of "Twin Peaks" episodes, where fans could dress up like the Log Lady and eat pie. We wanted gorgeous French New Wave films broadcast in HD. We wanted to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail while clip-clopping along on coconuts. We were excited to experience classic silent films scored by a live band.
The nonprofit Roxy Theater has hosted all these eclectic cultural offerings and much more, just in a few short months. It's already a place we'd recommend taking out-of-towners to sample the best of what keeps Missoula weird.
The Roxy has been around since 1937, though a devastating 1994 fire gutted the space. In recent years, the theater had been mostly shuttered except for the annual International Wildlife Film Festival (which, incidentally, is coming up April 12-19). But last summer, volunteers led by Chris Sand and Mike Steinberg (former program director of the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival) banded together and revamped the venue with a retro yet spiffy lobby and cushy, cupholder-ed seats.
Since relaunching in August, the space has become a cozy cross-section of the Missoula community, a place where film buffs, documentary nerds and casual moviegoers alike can find something to enjoy. Watching a movie at the Roxy feels a lot like hanging out at home with all your best buds; especially since a lot of your best buds are likely to turn up at screenings. After the shows, people actually stick around the lobby to talk about what they've just watchedand to share the last remnants of their "triple-organic popcorn." It makes for a lot more engaging of an experience than sitting at home streaming Netflix.
Just take a look at the Roxy's eclectic roster for this weekend: Thursday, it shows Prince's 1984 cult-classic Purple Rain. Then Friday and Saturday, there's popular demand screenings of Freeload, the Missoula-made doc about train-hoppers. (Freeload''s February premiere at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival sold out the Wilma, so be advised to show up early.) It's yet another lineup that piques our interests and prompts us to rearrange our schedule for some time at the theater. We can't help but offer kudos to the Roxy for all it's done so farand we raise our popcorn in salute of much more to come.