Get reel

Think your movie options end when you get to theater No. 24 at the cineplex? With this handy guide to Reno’s foreign and eclectic film scene, you’re no longer in the dark.

Think Century Theatres is the only game in town for movies? Reno is home to many away-from- the-multiplex film festivals.

Think Century Theatres is the only game in town for movies? Reno is home to many away-from- the-multiplex film festivals.

Photo Illustration by David Robert and David Jayne

At first glance, it seems local cinema-goers have only three options: Century Theatres, Century Theatres or Century Theatres. But there are alternatives to this seemingly homogenous multiplex monopoly. Members of the Great Basin Film Society proudly sport shirts that read, “Multiplex Schmultiplex.”

Since the demise of the Keystone II Cinemas several years ago, there has been no local independent art-house movie theater, but the void has been filled by, among other things, nonprofit appreciation societies and university-sponsored programs.

The art of film
Founded in 2002, GBFS specializes in showing 16mm prints of movies that either have not had a theatrical release in many years, have never been shown in Reno, or aren’t available on DVD or video.

“It’s like being a DJ at a party,” says GBFS president David McGraw. “If people like what you play, then they think you’re cool. But it’s just different to see a film with an audience—to hear people laugh at the wrong time. Or at the right time. There is a reason that sitcoms have laugh tracks.”

“Also,” adds GBFS founder and secretary Steve Savage, “the silence of an audience’s rapt attention is different than the silence of an empty room.”

Over the years, GBFS has shown films in a number of locations, including the Nevada Museum of Art, but the organization’s current home is The Green Room (7 p.m. every Tuesday, 144 West St.). GBFS has shown everything from Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

David McGraw, president of the Great Basin Film Society, shows hard-to-find films at Green Room.

Photo By David Robert

For every GBFS film, someone—usually McGraw or Savage—gives a talk about the film—to provide some context for films from different eras and different places. The casual and cheerful introductions personalize the experience, creating a friendly, homespun environment that’s the antithesis of the multiplex. Because the screenings are held in a bar, one is able to enjoy one’s favorite libations. And the popcorn, rather than costing the internal-organ or full-tank-of-gas prices one expects at the multiplex chains, is free.

The next GBFS film, Sept. 27 at The Green Room, will be Death by Hanging, a Japanese satire from 1966 directed by Nagisa Oshima. The film concerns a botched execution that leaves the convict alive but amnesic. His jailors reenact his crimes in order to jog his memory and prove his guilt. Any situation with authorities behaving like criminals is sure to be rife with satirical potential.

A double feature the Tuesday before Halloween (Oct. 25) will feature two very old, very weird, very notorious movies. The first is Freaks, from 1932, directed by Tod Browning (who also directed the great 1931 Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi). Freaks is infamous for its cast of real-life circus freaks and the crazed chant, “One of us! One of us!” The second film will be Island of Lost Souls, from 1933, directed by Erle C. Kenton and starring Charles Laughton. Island of Lost Souls is considered to be the best adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic novel of mad scientists and mutants, The Island of Dr. Moreau. Even after more than 70 years, both films are still considered shocking and controversial, so be forewarned. If you need a last-minute idea for a Halloween costume, this will be the event to attend.

Admission for GBFS films is $6 general and $4 for members. (Basic memberships are $15.) Information can be found at the group’s Web site,

Some movies with subtitles
If you want a culturally enriching film experience away from the multiplexes, but archaic freakshows in a downtown bars don’t sound like your sort of milieu, you might try the two film series sponsored by the University of Nevada, Reno Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. The Hispanic Cinema Series covers the Spanish-speaking portions of the world, and the International Cinema Series looks at the rest of it. The films range from China to Colombia, from 1954 to 2005, from comedic romps to dreary dramas. Both series occur weekly in the media center of the Getchell Library. They’re open to the community and, best of all, free.

“The biggest problem with the series is finding parking,” says Michelle Hoyt, operations manager for the department. She recommends buying a one-day campus parking pass—or perhaps arriving by an alternative mode of transportation, like the free Sierra Spirit bus that runs across downtown.

Films from the International Cinema Series are shown on Thursday nights at 6 p.m. The offerings include a year-old, Oscar- nominated American film, Hotel Rwanda, directed by Terry George (Sept. 29), and a 1994 Russian film, Anna, directed by Nikita Makhalkov (Oct.27). Hotel Rwanda is about a hotel manager (Don Cheadle) trying to save lives during the genocidal conflict of Rwanda in the early 1990s. Anna features the director filming his eponymous daughter during the final years of Soviet communism.

Steve Savage is the founder and secretary of the Great Basin Film Society.

Photo By David Robert

The Hispanic Cinema Series, like the GBFS schedule, runs on Tuesday nights—apparently a hot night for movies. (UNR’s film class, taught by Howard Rosenberg, has classes Tuesday nights at the NMA.)

The Hispanic series features films from Argentina and Cuba, as well as recent Spanish and American hits like The Motorcycle Diaries (directed by Walter Salles, Oct. 18) and Bad Education (directed by Pedro Almodó:var, Nov. 29), both starring Mexican heartthrob Gael Garcia Bernal. In the first film, he plays a young Che Guevera, in the second, a transvestite. And it’s got to be admitted: He looks pretty hot as a woman.

“I suspect some individual teachers might offer extra credit for attendance,” says Hoyt, “but it’s always good to hone language skills, and sometimes it’s just good to go watch a really good movie.”

Further information and detailed schedules for both series can be found at

It’s movie night
Additionally, the DFLL’s Latino Research Center has its own film series on Thursdays at 6 p.m. in a Getchell Library instruction room. These films, exploring American-Latino issues, run from Sept. 22 to Oct. 13.

The Great Basin Film Society and The Department of Foreign Languages and Literature aren’t the only local organizations offering cinematic alternatives. Another local film society, Cinemareno, has been bringing films to Reno for three years. Cinemareno also hosts the annual Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Upcoming events will be posted on the groups’ Web site,

This summer, Reno had movies in the park as part of ArtTown, films on the UNR lawn sponsored by the College of Extended Studies, and, in late August, the Tahoe/Reno Film Festival.

The upcoming fall season should also be rewarding. There are outdoor films hosted by UNR’s Jot Travis Student Union. The Nevada Historical Society is presenting Nevada-themed movies the second Monday of every month (call 688-1190). The Nevada Museum of Art is developing its own film series, and the fifth annual Reno Film Festival will be held in early November (browse

With all these cinematic options, everyone in town should develop a nice, healthy projector tan.