Waterville Cinema Goes From DIY Beginnings To An $18 Million Art Center

Waterville Cinema Goes From DIY Beginnings To An $18 Million Art Center

Nearly 45 years ago, a group of Maine movie buffs began projecting foreign films on 16mm government-issued projectors in an old Waterville barn. They did not set out to make any money or get any recognition. They just loved the movies, and they wanted to share the movies they loved with others.

decades later, Reelroad Square Cinema and Maine Film Centerthe nonprofit that grew out of those DIY movie experiences, will move next month to the new, $18 million Paul J. Schupf Center for the Arts, along with art galleries, a café, and the center’s parent organization, Waterville Creates.

For co-founder Ken Eisen, who was among the group of film geeks screening the films of Ingmar Bergman and Bernardo Bertolucci in a working-class mill town of Maine in the late 1970s, it’s hard to fathom how far all that has progressed.

“If you had told us at the time that something like this was going to happen when we opened our tiny little theater with $15,000 we would have put it together, we would have found that quite ridiculous,” Eisen said. “All we wanted at the time was to stay open as long as possible. And here we are. It’s kind of unbelievable to think about.”

For decades, Railroad Square Cinemas has been a beacon for movie fans across eastern and central Maine. Even in the age of streaming media, everyone from college students to retirees has gone to Waterville to watch movies you can’t see at your local broadcast complex. If you live within an hour of Waterville and want to see the latest film from directors like Pedro Almodovar, Wes Anderson or Richard Linklater, you’ll probably go to the railroad yard.

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