Our state has appeared in many Oscar-worthy films over the years: Up in The Air and Meet Me in St. Louis. (We won’t forget that St. Louis was doubled in Escape From New York. We’ve been more of a spectator than a starlet since the departure of former Gov. Jay Nixon shouted, “Cut!” about funding the Missouri Film Commission five years ago.
Cinema St. Louis is still doing its part by highlighting local filmmakers during the Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival which takes place on November 2-12th. We were left wondering: Which cinema house has been providing St. Louisans with their movie fix for the longest?
There are many obvious choices. Although Fox was originally a movie palace, it no longer shows movies. The classic neon marquee of the Tivoli opened five years before it was closed. The Hi-Pointe Theatre, named for its location on one of the loftiest plots in the city, sold its first ticket in 1922 and hasn’t stopped selling tickets since. According to Cliff Froehlich, Cinema St. Louis’ executive director, Hi-Pointe is the oldest continuously operating movie theatre in town.
Diana Grayson, co-owner of Hi-Pointe, enthusiastically supports this statement. The Hi-Pointe, unlike other theaters built in the 1920s and intended to screen movies, was originally designed to host plays and vaudeville. Grayson’s father purchased the Hi-Pointe in 1970. He changed the programming to include more art and independent films. This was a great move, which helped fill a niche that multiplexes occupied.
The Hi-Pointe has been renovated at different times, as with any building nearing the century mark. It retains its 1960s-style vibe today with its mosaic tile concession stand and “It’s cool inside” neon. Don’t be deceived by the velvet curtains. The auditorium has Dolby Digital sound and a large screen. Grayson also points out that the single-screen theater offers something you won’t find in a bustling multiplex: communion.
She says, “There aren’t multiple audiences in the lobby, passing each other on their way to different movies.” “We all come to the same movie. Everybody is here for the same purpose.”