River City Cinema finds its own home theater after 11 years

Posted May 28, 2012, at 5:04 p.m.
Kathy Tenga-Gonzalez
Kathy Tenga-Gonzalez

BANGOR, Maine — For almost 11 years, Bangor’s River City Cinema has led a nomadic existence, showing movies at local churches, civic organization clubs, and outside the downtown parking garage.

Thanks to a significant grant from the Quimby Family Foundation and the availability of a prime building in the heart of downtown Bangor, the cinema has finally found a home.

“We’ve been actively looking for a place, off and on, since the beginning,” said Kathy Tenga-Gonzalez, River City Cinema’s founder and artistic director. “We always knew we needed our own space and the opportunity came up so we took it.”

River City Cinema signed a lease earlier this month for the ground level storefront space at 81 Main St., on the corner formerly occupied by Country Hearts gift shop.

Tenga-Gonzalez preferred not to disclose the amount of the grant to her non-profit organization from Roxanne Quimby’s charitable foundation, but said it would allow her group to rent the space, which will eventually house an office and working theater space to show movies.

“Basically we can have more screenings more often and in one location,” Tenga-Gonzalez said. “It’s convenient and centralized. It’s always been about location, location, location for us.”

Now that the location has been located, it’s all about renovation, renovation, renovation.

“We’re going to need to need to raise money through donations to pay for renovations now,” Tenga-Gonzalez said. “And we’re still evaluating how best to utilize the space and in what way, so we still have a ways to go before we [open as a theater].”

River City Cinema was created in 2001 to promote classic movies, local and independent films, and documentaries that normally wouldn’t get much, if any, local attention.

“Basically, we saw a need for a venue or an organization to bring films here that normally don’t get shown on the big screen,” she said.

River City Cinema folks have been able to do that successfully through its outdoor summer classic movie series, which has screened six classic films — free to the public — each summer at Pickering Square downtown since 2004.

“We started with ‘Noir Beneath the Stars’ and this summer’s theme is ‘Give My Regards to Bangor,’ which is a series of classic musicals,” Tenga-Gonzalez said.

The series, which was started courtesy of a grant from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation that paid for the the cinema’s portable movie theater equipment, routinely attracts 200 to 400 people per movie.

This year’s schedule, which was recently announced, is as follows: “42nd Street” (starring Ginger Rogers, Dick Powell) on June 29; “Shall We Dance” (Rogers and Fred Astaire), July 6; “Summer Stock” (Judy Garland, Gene Kelly), July 13; “West Side Story,” July 20; “Cabaret,” July 27; and “Grease,” Aug. 3, with an Aug. 10 rain date. All movies will start at sundown (8:30 p.m.) Fridays near the parking garage.

Tenga-Gonzalez is hoping that having a permanent location will help River City Cinema generate more operating revenue for itself.

“When we show movies inside, there is a $7 admission price, so hopefully we’ll be able to raise more money once the warm weather goes away,” she said.

Tenga-Gonzalez said anyone wishing to join River City Cinema, contribute funds, or help out can do so by visiting their website at rivercitycinema.com or calling 358-9396.

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