Two jet-black Mitsubishis drag race, roaring their engines; the surround sound in the theater increases a few notches. Fast and Furious finishes as people of all ages leave their empty paper cups and greasy popcorn containers in the multiplex theater.
“Patrons are missing out on so much if all you do is go see the latest films from Hollywood,” said Greg Boardman, president of Boardman’s Theatres. “I prefer to show films where [they] challenge you to think and put yourself in someone else’s shoes.”
After owning a first-run, small-town theater for 20 years in Hoopeston, Ill., Boardman became frustrated when he tried to show independent and foreign films and had “six people [showing] up on a Saturday night.”
Boardman’s Art Theatre, located at 126 W. Church St.,C shows independent and foreign language films on its single screen and has an e-mail list of more than 2,000 patrons; Boardman said the movie changes about every two weeks, with some exceptions. Though Boardman opened his theater in June 2003 and wants to continue to provide independent and foreign language films to the CU community, his lease is up in December of this year.
Boardman was approached by the owners of the Rialto, a theater that has been closed since 1986, which is located right across the street from Boardman’s Art Theatre in the Russell Building.
“I’d love to see the Rialto come back to life in Champaign; [that’s my] main focus right now,” said Boardman. “[The Rialto] owners are theater lovers [and] want to see the building turn into a theater; I know how to bring a theater back to life.”
The City of Urbana also approached Boardman with the idea of opening a multiplex theater that would show independent and foreign language films.
“It would be like having Roger Ebert’s film festival in town week in and week out, [with] four, five, six films showing,” said Boardman. “Not only could I show more independent and foreign language films but also keep each of them longer and let them find an audience.”
Boardman commented on the reasons as to why the City of Urbana wants to create a multiplex theater:
“Urbana needs business … downtown [has] a lot of bars for college students,” he said.
Boardman said Urbana does not have a lot of culture or nightlife for the workers of downtown Urbana.
“A multiplex showing high-quality films attracts a better educated, better financed, different class of folks to come into the community, have dinner, spend the evening in Urbana,” he said.
However, Boardman said that his first priority is looking into the financial aspect of starting up the Rialto once again.
He hopes to open the Rialto sometime before the end of this year, meaning he would be running Boardman’s Art Theatre simultaneously.
UIUC junior Brendan Mulhern, an employee at the theater, enjoyed seeing movies at the theater before he began working there.
“I came a few times, especially for the festivals — most foreign language festivals are here; those are always nice to come to,” he said. “[It’s] hard to find foreign films, especially in this area … [but] you can come here [and] see films in different languages from all around the world.”
Boardman said first-run films playing in the multiplexes appeal to the widest possible audience and are also the films that make the most money; these films generally do not help viewers’ educations.
“Jackass has no redeeming quality; multiplexes had multiple copies showing,” he said. “These places have 18 or 20 screens each, three or four screens going, but thought-provoking films don’t make enough money to interest them.”
Boardman noted how his theater brings educational value to the community by screening independent and foreign language films.
With thousands of students coming to the University annually, Boardman commented on how students come to “expand their views and absorb culture.”
“If you arrive on campus and all you seek out are multiplexes, [you’re] missing out on so much culture [and are] not going to be challenged in any way by going to the multiplexes,” he said.
Mulhern agreed with Boardman that the films shown at Boardman’s Art Theatre give diverse views.
“These movies give you different perspectives, talking about different cultures, different styles of life … movies you see nowadays are usually the same, [have] similar scenarios,” said Mulhern.
Boardman will continue to provide the CU community with educational and thought-provoking films, whether they be at Boardman’s Art Theatre, the Rialto or a new multiplex theater in Urbana.

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