The Red Vic Movie House's Top 5

Susan Gerhard February 9, 2007

The Red Vic Movie House is good for us — and not just because the popcorn has nutritional yeast, the couches are comfortable, the cookies are home-baked, and the scent of medicinal herb floats over the neighborhood. A collectively owned repertory theater in operation for 27 years and counting in a world where single screens are going extinct, the Red Vic — like pandas who can still produce cubs — gives us a reason to believe. Founded by a group of friends, including Martha Beck, Jack and Betsy Rix, Terry Seefeld, Gary Aaronson, and Brad Reed, the collective ran two theaters at one point (The York, now BRAVA, on 24th Street), and grew to 11 members. But in spite of the times, the theater never gentrified. Evidence? Its famous couches, which were salvaged from the street and from the world of thrift, weren’t replaced by stadium seating when the time came, but nicely padded benches. We asked the collective (Susie Bell, Claudia Lehan, Jack Rix, and new hire Jennifer Viale) to come up with a list of their five favorite screenings over the years.

1. “Outrageous”
The very first film the theater ever showed. We were supposed to screen “Casablanca” opening night, but someone had stolen the 16mm projector.

2. “Marat/Sade”
This was sometime in the early ’80s — a group of folks, perhaps the Cacophony Society, decided to get naked during one of the screenings and run around the auditorium, in honor of the inmates of the asylum in the film.

3. “Always for Pleasure”
Within the film is a cooking demonstration, where we learn how to cook red beans and rice. Director Les Blank showed up at every screening with a big pot of red beans and rice and fanned the fumes towards the audience during the scene. He called it ‘smell-o-vision.’ The audience was served the food after the screenings.

4. “Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea”
Because we’ve become good friends with director Chris Metzler, and he’s fun to have around. He also gave us a framed box containing a dead tilapia, which is hanging in our office.

5. “Harold and Maude” We enjoy screening this every July 25th, on our birthday. We often hand out daisies (a la Maude), and there’s always free cake for everyone.