The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday October 25th

Letter: Saving the Chelsea? Ask employees


As a projectionist at the Chelsea Theater — or what’s bluntly listed as a “weakness” in Save The Chelsea’s business plan— I can’t help but be weary of this group’s motivations behind acquiring the theater and implementing a non-profit co-op model. 

They’ve provided no evidence to suggest that low overhead arthouse theaters can actually thrive as non-profits, and this group has no genuine intention to preserve what people love about this theater. 

Although it’s true that the theater has been facing financial struggles in the past couple years with the opening of Silverspot and declines in movie-going, our financial troubles could be easily be resolved with a few minor renovations and better marketing under a single-owner model.

The group’s failure to work with current staff — to simply “co-operate” — speaks to their general lack of genuine emotional investment in the Chelsea. 

In a piece published by The Herald Sun, board member Mark Barroso said ,“we believe the Chelsea can be more than a movie theater in a strip mall,” as if to suggest the theater’s value and history are as banal as that of the neighboring Subway or Rite Aid. 

The board says they want to screen more foreign films and art films, but chastised us during a meeting at Flyleaf for not having screened Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. 

I’ve never even seen the group’s leader Tom Henkel come see a film here.

I know that none of my peers will want to pay a lump sum and volunteer their time in exchange for “free” movies. 

If you ask me, the moviegoing experience is already a cooperative one, one in which strangers from all walks of life can come together to sit in a dark room for a couple hours to collectively experience the same spectacles regardless of their privilege. 

I can’t help but see the hypocrisy in adopting a feel-good progressive ethos; all this model will do is ensure that only paying subscribers will be allowed to frequent and staff the theater, rendering it an exclusive playhouse-like caricature of the Chelsea that we know and love.

If you ask me, the only thing the Chelsea and the sense of community it provides needs to be saved from is Save The Chelsea. 

But I guess I was never asked.

Samuel Higgins

Communications and Global Cinema


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