News Column

Riverside's eclectic Sun-Ray Cinema to expand into a second auditorium

August 16, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 16--Riverside's often offbeat Sun-Ray Cinema plans to expand next door to make a second auditorium, allowing the theater to become offbeat on a more consistent basis.

Owner Tim Massett said he's also looking for a location for another movie theater, most likely at the Beaches, though that's probably a year off.

The new movie house at Sun-Ray will be small, just 45 seats, in leased space inside a former gift store at 1026 Park St. It will be reached though the lobby of the current theater.

Massett expects to close on a loan next week, and to open the new auditorium by late September.

Having a second screen should allow him to bring in more eclectic films, either in the small room or in the current 184-seat theater -- while still keeping a steady diet of relatively mainstream movies on the schedule.

The Sun-Ray opened in late 2011 inside a 1927 movie theater in Five Points. Massett said it's steadily been building an audience that's looking for an alternative to megaplexes.

In the next week, for example, it's showing three documentaries, "Blackfish," "Stories We Tell" and "The Act of Killing," the comedy "Crystal Fairy"; the coming-of-age story "The Way Way Back"; and a triple-feature of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's "Shaun of the Dead," "Hot Fuzz" and "The World's End." Also in there: A one-time showing of "Computer Chess," an independent movie that's making the rounds of film festivals.

And in October, he's bringing in filmmaker Richard Kelly to show and talk about his cult movie from 2001, "Donnie Darko."

"I think there's always been an audience for this [in Jacksonville], but there's never been a cohesive approach to that kind of movie," Massett said. "Our goal, always, has been to be pleasing to all, trying to present the entire spectrum of films out there, not just what's going through the Hollywood system. And we certainly don't look down on 'Iron Man 3' or anything."

Massett has long been a proponent of adventurous movie fare in Jacksonville. He once showed films in an old warehouse he named The Pit, then was a programmer at the Jacksonville Film Festival and the San Marco Theatre.

In 2008 he went to Duluth, Minn., where he was hired to open a two-screen theater from the ground up. He moved back to Jacksonville to take over the theater in Five Points, which he renovated with more than $100,000 raised in a crowd-sourcing campaign.

Going to a second screen will leave Jacksonville with just one single-screen movie house, the San Marco.

Within the last year, both the San Marco and Sun-Ray installed expensive digital projectors so they could stay in business. That came after the major movie studios decided to release new titles in digital format only by the end of 2013.

Matt Soergel: (904) 359-4082

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