Imagine having a large private cinema room, fully air-conditioned and with plush armchairs, at your disposal – to watch films alone or with a few friends, while enjoying drinks, popcorn and other snacks.
Especially these days, as many people avoid congregating in enclosed spaces, an added bonus to the private cinema experience is that, with the capacity of a few hundred seats, you and your two, five or ten friends can ‘social distancing’ to your hearts’ tenor.
To take advantage of this privilege in Tobago, it is not necessary to be a multi-millionaire; simply have a penchant for independent, alternative, foreign or locally produced feature films. If that’s your preference, for the price of a regular local multiplex movie ticket, you’re guaranteed to have a theater all to yourself and/or a few friends at the Tobago branch of MovieTowne – the only movie theater in the island.
I say this from experience, having mostly watched movies in the company of a handful of other people. On these occasions, the films screened did not fall into the categories of children’s cartoons, action blockbusters, horror or Marvel superheroes. In Tobago, the latter genres usually appeal to the masses and have the popcorn machine in overdrive.
This is not a review of those who like this kind of movies. We all have our preferences.
It is, however, a precursor to the suggestion that a movie theater in MovieTowne Tobago is reserved exclusively for local and foreign feature films that are considered mainstream alternatives.
Recently, the movie HERO: Inspired by the Extraordinary Life and Times of Mr Ulric Cross was screened at MovieTowne, Trinidad. Directed by Frances-Anne Solomon, produced by Lisa Wickham and starring Nickolai Salcedo, the film traces the life of the late Ulric Cross, who, according to Wikipedia, was “a Trinidadian jurist, diplomat and Royal Air Force (RAF) navigator, recognized as perhaps the most decorated West Indian of World War II. He is credited with helping to save some 200 bombers from being shot down during a raid on Germany in 1943.”
Several people I know who live in Tobago (including myself), had an interest in seeing the film, either because we knew Ulric (for example, he was the father of my friend Nicola), or were interested in films by internationally renowned with local content (production, distribution or otherwise), have an interest in history (especially when someone from TT is involved) and/or simply want to enjoy and learn from a well-produced docudrama.
HERO played MovieTowne (Port of Spain) for a week, until April 13, but never reached the Tobago branch. During the Easter holidays, despite the increase in inter-island flights to accommodate Trini leisure enthusiasts, anyone based in Tobago planning to travel to Trinidad to see the film would have done so at their own risk – possibly having to go home on hold, so unable to wait for the “next available seat X days from now”.
She Paradise, the feature debut of young Trinidadian director Maya Cozier, will also be screened at MovieTowne (PoS and San Fernando) from April 25 to May 5. Another movie that doesn’t seem to be making its way to the MovieTowne branch in Tobago.
Described in a New York Times review as “coming of age on soca” and in an LA Times review as “A ‘soca’ dancer pursues her dream,” one would imagine She Paradise might appeal to locals. from Tobago, especially young people who might be attracted to the film’s premise – a teenage TT girl living in poverty joins a dance group, hoping to earn money and escape the impoverished life that she endures under her grandfather.
Young Tobagonians who dream of being filmmakers might be inspired by the fact that the works of local filmmakers are shown on “big screens”, reviewed by global publications and are available for rental or purchase on the services of popular streams.
With making money as a priority, why would MovieTowne generally screen potentially appealing films for only a handful of customers? However, is it correct to assume that the average person in Tobago only wants to see cartoons and action movies… or that everyone who prefers alternative movies will either fly to Trinidad or wait for certain movies to be released? available online?
Again…why wait for MovieTowne to provide Tobago with a continuous menu of challenging, interesting, alternative and inspiring local and foreign films? This perceived limitation presents an opportunity for an enterprising individual to open a charming two-screen freestanding movie theater…with an intimate indoor screen and an outdoor one with a connected cafe/bar for viewing experiences under the stars. Tickets can sell out as quickly as CAL’s.