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‘Abandoned Theatres’ Spotlights the Remains of Small-Town Midwestern Cinemas
August 27, 2023
Like many sectors of the U.S. economy, movie theaters struggled during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many were forced to shut their doors after months of lockdown, an additional blow to the small, independently run spots that had been competing with multiplex chains for decades.
When the pandemic hit, Ben Geier already had his eye on local cinemas, particularly those in Midwestern areas that closed years before. He photographed the remains for Abandoned Theatres, an ongoing series that’s both a nostalgic and clear-eyed look at small-town life. As more cinemas shuttered in 2020, Geier’s subject matter became more abundant. “Covid times really allowed me to get out on the road and photograph most of the theatres without anybody around, which gave each photo an eerie quality,” he tells Colossal.
Primarily shot straight on, the images document remnants and what are now relics of an earlier era: painted plywood covers the spot where a poster once hung, metal gates rest along a drive-in wall, and a marquee advertises the phone number of the movie hotline. So far, the series includes about 20 locations with a wide variety of architecture, from the classic State Theatre to the old-world farmhouse style of the Delft. “I really enjoy rural America and the roadside aesthetic from the ’50s to ’80s, and there’s still a lot of it hiding in small towns, so I try my best to photograph it while it’s still around,” he says. “I have a lot of interests, and the Abandoned Theatre series seemed like a perfect blend of so many of them: Americana, architecture, and neon signs.”
Geier, who’s based in Batavia, Illinois, will be traveling throughout the Southwest U.S. in the coming months, in part, to scout theatres to add to the series. You can find more of his work, including a collection that peers inside a house with impeccably preserved 1960s charm, on Behance and Instagram. (via Present & Correct)
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