Peoria native Luke McCann seems to have found a solution to the problem of overpriced, noisy, teenager-ridden movie theaters – and it even involves alcohol.
In February, McCann opened the Peoria Theater, an independent safe-haven for over-21ers looking for an alternative to the traditional movie-viewing experience.
Tucked away in Peoria’s Landmark Plaza, the establishment contains a pair of individual theaters, complete with both regular auditorium seating and the cozy alternative of recliners and couches.
Another plus, as senior computer information systems major Ray Liberatore found out: there’s no line to wait in.
“I was actually the only one in there, so I guess you couldn’t ask for a more personal experience,” Liberatore said after recently viewing “It Might Get Loud,” which will be showing through Nov. 5. “The setup with the couches and chairs was really comfortable. The screen was smaller than normal, but I think for an independent theater, it’s neat to have something like that.”
McCann explained that a number of indie theaters receive a strong initial reaction, but don’t survive to see much more.
“It’s been eight-and-a-half months and we’re still here, so I’d say that is pretty substantial right there,” he said. “The reaction has been really positive and I know there are a lot of people out there trying to keep us afloat.”
The theater has featured a number of local independent films, complete with director Q&A sessions, as well as Academy-recognized movies such as “The Wrestler” and “Rachel Getting Married.”
“A lot of people that come here, especially our members, are people that are used to travelling to the Normal Theater or even St. Louis or Chicago to see the types of movies we bring in,” McCann said. “I have no reason to believe that anyone has ever come to one of our shows and not had a good time. They all know its something new and a lot of them say how thankful they are that something like this is finally in Peoria.”
Upon arrival at the Peoria Theater, guests will find the same basics that could be expected from any movie theater in America – the smell of popcorn, a concession stand and plenty of neon lighting (the theater’s two screens used to be part of the Landmark Theater).
But after spending a few minutes in the lobby, it’s easy to see what makes the place so quirky and special. The 27-by-40-inch movie posters that line the aisle to your theater are held up by thumbtacks, rather than the standard black frames and the same friendly person who sells tickets – likely McCann – also sells concessions and even runs the projectors. Coffee-shop-like tables fill the lobby, allowing patrons to enjoy the theater’s wireless Internet.
But perhaps the most noticeable difference between Peoria’s indie theater and a place like Willow Knolls is the same reason you won’t see any kids there.
Amidst its popcorn and Junior Mints, moviegoers can find the Peoria Theater’s vast selection of adult beverages. Not only are its tickets cheaper than area theaters ($5 for students), but the Peoria Theater provides an opportunity to enjoy beer, wine and cocktails at prices that are lower than most area bars.
“The bar kind of fits with how unique the place is,” McCann said as he was whipping up another batch of popcorn. “People are always shocked by the idea of being able to drink in a theater because that’s never existed in this town.”
In addition to featuring indie movies throughout the month, the theater also has planned a number of seasonal events such as the Drunken Zombie Film Fest and showings of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” for Halloween. The theater is also rentable to private parties for sporting events, special big-screen viewings of old favorites and even private meetings.
“I think we have really run a pretty impressive gamete as far as the events we’ve hosted, just in the first eight months,” McCann said. “This past weekend is a great example of the diversity of the different events we’ve done. I mean, Saturday night we had a gay and lesbian film festival and Sunday we showed football all day.”
The Peoria Theater is open Tuesday through Sunday. For more information on upcoming shows, memberships and prices, visit www.peoriatheater.com.