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ISSUE 121 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/22/2008

Southgate surprises

By April Wright
Variety Editor
and David Henke
Variety Editor

Friday, February 22, 2008

St. Olaf students have really only had a choice between two movie theaters: the soulless, commercial movie factory in Lakeville or its plucky competitor, the resolutely retro Southgate Cinema.

For the most part, students make the 20-minute trek up Interstate 35 to enjoy movies in the glittering Goliath on Keokuk Avenue. But what about the little three-screened David right in town? After all, 20 minutes is an awfully long drive to see a two-hour flick.

So why do students continually shirk the Southgate option in favor of suburban glitz and glamour? We traveled down to the S-Gate in search of answers. While we found a few, most of the bias against S-Town is clearly classist propaganda perpetuated by Lakeville theater subversives.

Southgate has a style all its own. If you thought the 70s were dead and gone, you're wrong. They're alive and well at the Southgate Cinema. Right when you walk in, you're blasted with the past. From the brown and orange medallion print carpet to the worn, hyper-retro lounge chairs, the whole place exudes the same atmosphere as your Grandmas basement. With the 70s furniture in the old Science Center on its way out, many Oles will no doubt be in need of a retro furniture fix, and in this instance, S-Geezy's is totally swingin'.

S-Grizzle's offers a modest, yet sufficient array of snacks. We tested out the nachos and found them up to snuff. Don't get us wrong, they weren't El Tequila, but for crunch fodder, they do just fine.

After picking up our movie theater fare from the indifferent girl behind the concession counter, we proceeded into theater number two, which to correspond with the brown and orange carpeting had bright orange floor lights, giving the theater a Halloween-like glow.

The theater, though small, felt strangely cozy despite its high ceilings and orange cinderblock walls. It was a nice change from the cavernous ampitheaters of Lakeville. The screen was a little dark, but hey, soft light is romantic, right? And because of its size, the theater had an interesting (but not problematic) sound resonance.

On top of all of these benefits, S-Groove is a far more economical option than trekking up 35 to L-Town (unless you take the movie bus, of course). Not only do you save a couple gallons of gas, but the prices of tickets and concessions are more college-friendly. Nightly shows $7.00, compared to Lakeville's $8.50. Matinees run at an affordable $5.00, which isn't much cheaper than Lakeville's $5.75, but at least you dont have to pay in cash only.

Southgate isn't all roses. Because there are so few screens, show times can be more sporadic than at a large theater. It's harder to catch a chosen film when there are only two or three showings a day, so make sure to call for times before you leave. Plus, there is less seating, so if you're bringing a group on opening night, you might be out of luck. Though on most nights, the theaters aren't very cramped. And, if you want the coveted back-of-the-theater make-out spots, you'll have some difficulty doing so surreptitiously due to the size of the theaters.

But really, there is no reason Southgate should receive as bad of a rep as everyone gives it. Yeah, it doesn't have the polished, commercial shine of the Lakeville theater, but it has a quaint, rough-around-edges feel that makes for an interestingly vintage theater-going experience.

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