‘A loss to the community:’ Movie-goers say their final goodbye to Village 8
Red Ramsey is going to have a tough time saying goodbye to Village 8 in St. Matthews’ duPont Circle.
“I'm gonna miss this place,” Ramsey said. “I can't believe it's closing, I still can't believe it.”
Ramsey has been coming to Village 8 since the early 1990s, and he’s been working here since 2000, making him the discount theater’s longest-tenured employee. Over the last 22 years, he’s worked as an usher, in concessions and trained colleagues. He’s participated in film festivals at the theater. And lately, he’s enjoyed being in the box office and interacting with all of the customers these final weeks.
“I hate to see y’all close,” a customer said to Ramsey after purchasing two tickets to see “Jurassic World: Dominion.”
“You and me both,” Ramsey replied.
Despite last-minute pleas from movie-goers, Village 8’s fate, at least at 4014 Dutchmans Ln., is certain.
The nearly 50-year-old independent movie theater is at the end of its run. Its last day in business is July 5th.
Public relations director Maggie Roetker told WFPL News Norton had conversations with businesses in the building “to work on a timeline for the conclusion of their leases.”
“We continue to work on our plans for the future of the property, which will be utilized to increase the community’s access to health care,” Roetker said in an email. “We will announce those plans once they are finalized.”
In April, Louisville-based Apex Entertainment, which operates Village 8 and Baxter Avenue Theatres in the Highlands, released a statement that expressed gratitude to North Healthcare: “Without Norton’s help, Village 8 would not have been able to keep its doors open particularly during COVID. We appreciate the patronage and support of the whole Louisville community.”
Fans and employees lament the loss
Ramsey will be able to transfer Baxter Avenue Theatres after Village 8 closes. But he said it won’t be the same. He’s built a rapport with Village 8 employees, and he’ll miss that.
“I've never had a day where I didn't want to come to work and the time always goes fast,” Ramsey said. “We have so much fun.”
His colleague assistant manager Joseph Siegel agreed.
“A lot of us are going over to Baxter, but there's something Village 8 had in particular with the camaraderie of the employees,” he said. “I'm really gonna miss that, definitely.”
Ramsey imagined retiring from Village 8.
“I'm not here for the paycheck. I'm just here for the movies and the experience … I'm just gonna miss everything about it.”
Amelia Adams, who came to see “Downton Abbey: A New Era,” said Village 8 has long represented two things for her: “good movies and good popcorn.”
She prefers the old-school movie-watching experience, and the cheap tickets.
“I don't like the fancy chairs. I don't like reserved seats, it’s not necessary,” she said. “The community is going to feel the loss.”
Lee Holland has been coming to Village 8 for more than 20 years. He called it his “home away from home.”
“It's almost like a basement when I want to get away from family and have time to myself and just escape from the outside world and work,” Holland said. “And oh my gosh, I love the popcorn here.”
About that popcorn, it’s a thing.
Red Ramsey said some people come just for the popcorn.
“Remember the cartoons, and the cat…it would be floating with the aroma? That’s like what people be doing here [with the popcorn],” he said.
Sure enough, a woman walked right past the box office, waved her hand at Ramsey and went inside.
“She doesn't want to see a movie. She wants the popcorn,” Ramsey explained with a laugh, adding that people used to come in with garbage bags to get their fill of popcorn.
More than a place that shows movies
Village 8 opened in the 1970s, and screened second-run movies.
But last fall, the theater switched to new releases. At that time, a company representative said the change was due to major shifts within the movie and movie-viewing industry.
The wait-time between theater and home viewing was already shrinking. It largely disappeared during the COVID-19 pandemic, as some major film studios, such as Warner Bros., dropped new titles immediately onto streaming platforms.
General manager Matthew Kohorst said that killed second-run for them, and business was slower since the pandemic. But he thinks they “would have done OK.”
“If Norton hadn't bought the building and we were allowed to stay here and pay rent. We were doing that.”
Ross Melnick, a professor of film and media studies at University of California Santa Barbara, believes the movie-going experience will survive these recent industry changes – after all, it’s survived new ideas and technology in the past, like television, pay-per-view cable, video games and the internet. People also seemed eager to get out of the house to watch “Top Gun: Maverick” and the latest installment in the “Jurassic Park” franchise.
But there’s still a loss every time a theater closes because “movie theaters are not just about where films play,” said Melnick, who also co-founded the movie theater guide site Cinema Treasures.
“That venue isn't just a place where people saw ‘Gremlins,’ or ‘Forrest Gump,’” Melnick said. “It was a place where they went on dates, and they brought their families. They went to that theater with people who are no longer with us.”
“When these things go away they're sad, but they are instructive,” Melnick continued.
He hopes it will show how much cultural venues are a part of the equation that “constitutes community,” and the role individuals can play in helping ensure their future.
For now, these Village 8 die-hards are savoring their last few flicks at the discount theater and their final buckets of the famous popcorn.