With COVID-19 cases rising, more and more people are encouraged to stay put, similar to what was experienced in the spring. Some might have more free time than they did before and are wondering what the best way to spend that time is. Well, the Downing Film Center is a perfect option for those who are looking for a unique selection of movies to watch at home, all while supporting a local business.
Movie theaters have taken a large hit from the pandemic, with most not allowed to operate. However, Newburgh’s Downing Film Center has gotten creative and created an at-home streaming experience for those who are interested in their carefully curated selection of independent, classic, and foreign films.
“One of the ways we could survive is to try and do virtual screenings,” said owner Brian Burke. “The films chosen are really well done and have gotten awards and critic’s picks.”
Online you can scroll through a variety of different movies and read each one’s summary. Once you’ve picked the one you are ready to watch, you are able to purchase a ticket through their website. You are then given an access code for your chosen movie, which can be viewed on any device. To view on a television, the Downing Film Center suggests to see your TV manufacturer guide for further guidance. Different movies are released on Fridays, and are carefully researched and hand-picked by Burke. They are posted for up to three weeks on the theater’s website.
“We try to do interesting films,” said Burke. “And people love them. That’s what’s important.”
The films are provided by different distributors, so ticket prices and viewing windows are different for each movie. Though, the average price is $12. For some, the movie is available for up to five days, while others have a more limited window.
Aside from watching a unique movie that probably won’t be found on Netflix, viewers are helping support the Downing Film Center. The distributor of each film donates a percentage of the ticket purchase price to the film center. Other people can support the theater by purchasing a gift card for an in-person movie down the road, becoming a member or sponsor of the Downing Film Center, or make a donation online.
The Downing Film Center remains temporarily closed, and has been since March 15, when they had their last showing. So far they have been able to stream 169 different films, which far surpasses the normal year of 75 to 100 films in the one-screen theater.
Newburgh residents have largely taken advantage of this at-home experience. A group of eight community members have been participating in a film discussion group, similar to how book clubs operate. While they would normally go in and watch at the Downing Film Center, they knew they would have to get creative when it temporarily closed. Warren Cahill, a member of this group, said that now in the pandemic, before turning to Netflix, Amazon Prime or other streaming services to pick a movie, they always check to see what the Downing Film Center has to offer online.
The group always looks for something that will spark conversation and often choose documentaries or foreign films, which the Downing Film Center has no shortage of.
“You should start your own group with your own friends,” Cahill said he tells people. “That’s what I encourage people to do. This is a fun thing to do, to get together and discuss films, especially interesting ones like they have at the Downing, either documentaries, foreign films, or interesting, off-beat movies you won’t find elsewhere.”
The Downing Film Center plans to continue their virtual screenings even when the theater opens back up, which they hope can happen in time to celebrate the 15-year anniversary in July of 2021.