The Clarence Campaign at the Naro Cinema
A cultural staple of Norfolk is now in danger of closing. Naro Cinema on Colley Avenue is a one-theater movie house that has been around since 1936. The theater is known for their showing of independent films that are not available in chain theaters, documentaries, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and other popular hits.
Among many other characteristics, one that makes the cinema unique is its use of 35mm film prints. While some say that this only adds to the ambiance of the theater, it is the only thing that could also cause Naro Cinema to be shut down. This year the remaining film processing labs are shutting down, which will cause around 1,000 screens to close. Chain theaters have already converted to digital media. Naro needs to raise $80,000 in order to convert and remain open. Since Naro Cinema is in desperate need for funds, they have begun the Clarence Digital Cinema Campaign for citizens to donate. The fund is named after Clarence, a character from Frank Capra’s 1946 film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which plays at the Naro every December around Christmas. In the film, Clarence is George Bailey’s guardian angel. Ultimately, he saves George’s life, and leaves a note for him at the end of the film that reads, “No man is a failure who has friends.”
Co-owners of the Naro, Thom Vourlas and Tench Phillips, wish to continue the magic of the cinema for as long as they can.
In the film, “The End of Film in 2013:A New Beginning for the Naro,” Phillips said, “We have really good audiences here at the Naro, and because of that, we feel like we want to continue this for as long as we can.”
The Naro theater was originally built as the Colley Theater back in 1936,and was relegated as the B-movie house but it continued to survive through the decades.
The Naro Cinema is 75 years old, and will fight to keep showing films for years to come. “We’re much more than a regular movie theater,” said Phillips, “[We’re] independent, old, and [have] a single screen. There are only 250 [theaters like us] left in America now.” He also added, “We feel like [film] is still the best, even though digital continues to get better all the time.”
All of the film labs will be closed by the beginning of this year, saving money for the companies, but threatening independent cinemas like the Naro. The cinema has been told that if they don’t covert to digital by the end of this year, they will be forced to close. Vourlas and Phillips don’t feel as though the digital media will look any better or increase revenue, but instead refers to the conversion as, “a penalty, a fee to stay in business.”
Currently, the Clarence Campaign has raised around $24,000, about 30 percent of their target amount.
Donations are being accepted on the website http://narocinema.com/clarence/, through mail, or directly in the Naro’s lobby.
By Emma Needham