The Cinema Theater: Rochester’s Oldest Neighborhood Theater

The Cinema Theater: Rochester’s Oldest Neighborhood Theater

We’ve been to the Cinema Theater twice before. In Budding scientists make cinematic splash at East, the Science STARS displayed Our Life. Our Meat. Our Story. In Talker loses his innocence, Rockily, at the Cinema Theatre, we were invited for a cameo appearance in the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Today, George Cassidy Payne takes us inside and outside the Cinema Theater.

The Cinema Theater: Rochester’s Oldest Neighborhood Theater

I’m sure there is a study out there that looks at the psychology of people who enjoy going to the movie theater compared with those who like to watch films at home. Going to the theater has always been a strange way to bond with other people. The goal is not to talk, be seen, or be bothered, but to have a collective experience, sort of like a group meditation or Quaker Friends meeting.

Personally speaking, I do not want any contact. I purposely come in 5 minutes before the film starts, procure a seat that no one else is sitting near, and try my best to block out the extraneous static and ritualistic pre-screening chatter. Once I am seated and well organized, I look around the darkened space and wonder why I’m even there. What is it about going to the theater that makes watching a movie different or better than checking it out on DVD or Netflix? But I’m there, so there must be an answer in that.

Technologically speaking, the theater experience blows away any home stereo system. I don’t care how hooked up you are, there is nothing like watching and hearing a film on the big screen. The theater itself becomes another character/presence in the film. It becomes, in other words, the medium which allows the director’s vision to be fully channeled and realized through the sheer size and dimension of the platform itself; and it allows everyone else from the cinematographer to the sound editors to show what they originally felt in their heart when they began the project. You can’t get that at home. No matter how tricked out the DVD set is, or how enhanced your HD is, the theater makes movies truly movies.

The technological advantage aside, obviously, for me, its not about the verbal communication with other viewers that makes going to the movies better than staying home. But it matters that they are there nonetheless. It is comforting to know that they are making the effort just like me. To hear when they laugh is a good sign that the director/ writer hit the mark. To hear the audible gasps, hushes, shrieks, shuffling of feet, popcorn crunching, wiggling buts, oohs and ahhs, helps make the film come alive. The film was made to be seen, and to see other people seeing it helps make the experience more visceral than it would be otherwise. You can cram 20 -50 people into the most spacious living room, but it still doesn’t have the same effect as the theater.

I often wonder if we will have theaters in the future. It is hard to tell right now whether this is a dying venue or one waiting to be reinvented. Will there always be small neighborhood theaters like the Cinema on South Clinton? I’m not sure but I hope so.

Photography by George Cassidy Payne

Since 2018, The Cinema Theater has been run by Audrey Kramer and Alex Chernavsky. Consider becoming a member by contacting them directly: [email protected] or Alex at: 585-271-1786

The Cinema Theater

957 South Clinton Ave.

(Across from Highland Diner)

585-271-1785-movie schedule


The Cinema now features a modern digital projector, Blu-ray player, computer with PowerPoint, Surround-sound audio system, and wireless microphones.

The sidewalk along the Cinema’s exit doors.

The historic Highland Diner

Did you know that the Cinema has held birthday parties and private screenings?

A scene from Roma

The theater’s ticket reception lobby


Changing My Mind About Muhammad: A Cinematic Transformation at the Dryden Theater.

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


Like what you see on our site? We’d appreciate your support. Please donate today.

Featured Posts