Peoria has always been a city that was in desperate need of realizing that it had become a college town. Barring a few friendly establishments downtown and the rote businesses that catered solely to college students around campus, there’s not much to let residents know that college students are even here.
That’s what makes me so crushed by the imminent loss of the Peoria Theater. The independent theater, opened in 2009 and attached to Landmark, was a home for independent movies that otherwise wouldn’t come to Peoria as well as a great place to relax, get a drink and see everything from Oscar-nominated short films to live music and special events, like The Big Lebowski Night.
For cinephiles like myself, it was something of a community oasis. Gone were moviegoers more interested in chatting, kicking seats or causing other sorts of chaos that Andy Rooney would find troublesome.
If you were there to see “The Tree of Life” or “Catfish” or take part in the annual Drunken Zombie Film Festival, you were there to watch, to see something you couldn’t see nearly anywhere else in the city. There was a community there, likeminded individuals just wanting to see something that wasn’t available to see elsewhere. I’m not soon going to forget coming together with a group of strangers as a man injected extension drugs into his penis during last year’s Found Footage Festival.
There’s still one last hurrah coming. Saturday’s going away party is the final chance to be with like-minded movie lovers for $1 drinks, a movie marathon and a chance to purchase posters and other merchandise at a basement level price. For a place that’s given many of us so much, there’s little we can do but give the Peoria Theater well wishes until they can find a new location. It’s a fitting way to toast one of the great cultural locations of the city.