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Star City Secret Cinema is like a blind date for film enthusiasts

Star City Secret Cinema is a new film series at the Grandin Theatre.
Justin Smith
Star City Secret Cinema is a new film series at the Grandin Theatre.

Movie theater film series most often focus on a particular star, director, or genre. But this week, “All Things Considered” host Craig Wright was at Roanoke’s Grandin Theatre for the premiere of a new film series – with a most unusual twist!

Ordinarily, when the lights go down at the movie theater, you’ve already prepared yourself for the feature you’ve chosen.

But would you be willing to buy a ticket and sit down for a movie without knowing what it is you’re going to see? That’s the idea behind Star City Secret Cinema.

It’s the brainchild of Justin Smith, a fan of the Grandin Theatre – and an admitted “movie junkie”.

“I love a little bit of everything. And one of the best things about watching movies is discovering something new,” says Smith.

Through promotion on the theater’s website and social media, theater-goers are invited to plop down their ten dollars and take a seat in the theater not knowing what they’re in store for. Smith is banking that there are enough film enthusiasts, like him, that are willing to take that chance.

Smith challenges the audience, “You might something that you never even would have looked at otherwise, and that’s sometimes where you find a new favorite.”

For the premiere event, the only hint about the movie is that it is rated “PG”. But future selections could be just about anything.

Smith teases, “Pretty much just going to be all over the place. Could be “G”, could be “NC-17”. I do plan to have content advisories in the future for more extreme content because, you know, it’s about having a good time. I don’t want to upset anybody.”  

I’m just as in the dark as everyone else as the audience for the night begins filtering into the Grandin lobby.

I asked a number of them why they were willing to try this out – as well as their predictions for what they were going to see.

Craig: What brings you out on a cold January night here at the Grandin Theatre?

Movie-goer #1: “Just looking forward to a good show.”

Craig: Are you just generally a movie fan?

Movie-goer #1: I’m a movie fan. So much so that I’m willing to sit down not know what I’m going to watch. Maybe we’ll get Casablanca, maybe we’ll get some black and white. We don’t know what we’re going to get. We’ve all taken some guesses what we might see tonight. We kind of span a variety of different genres.

Movie-goer #2: It just felt kind of like an adventurous thing to do and, honestly, it’s his birthday – so it was also a fun thing to do for his birthday.

Movie-goer #3: From what I’ve seen so far, The Grandin always puts on some good theme events. But as far as tonight, I’m putting trust in them to pick a good movie and, yeah, just kind of the adventure of it.

Movie-goer #4: It’s a way to make a decision without having to make a decision. There’s so much content out there.

Craig: Any predictions about what you’re going to see? Have you all even maybe tried to guess or fathom what you’re seeing tonight?

Movie-goer #5: No idea! Not a clue!

Just like a well-crafted thriller, the suspense mounts until its show time. Then Smith provides a brief welcome and announces the selection for the night:

“Who’s heard of a little movie called ‘Jaws’?! Well, we’re not watching that tonight! But, four years before ‘Jaws’, Steven Spielberg directed his first feature – a TV movie that was successful enough be expanded and get a theatrical release. It’s a thriller about a salesman who gets on the bad side of the wrong trucker on the back roads of California. So everyone please silence your phones, settle in, and enjoy Steven Spielberg’s 1971 film: ‘Duel’.”

I’ve seen “Duel” before – but never on the big screen. It was clearly a successful choice for Smith – and a crowd-pleaser as the audience broke into applause as the end credits began to roll.

If you missed out, take heart. The Star City Secret Cinema will be a regular feature at The Grandin with the next event scheduled for February 19th.

Craig Wright hosts All Things Considered on Radio IQ.