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Albany’s Spectrum 8 Theatre closed a month ago

You should consider a road trip to Saugerties this weekend.

The iconic Spectrum 8 in Albany closed last month when Landmark Theatres decided not to renew its lease. The shock has worn off, though I am still in mourning.

As a SUNY-Albany graduate student in the late 1990s, I became well acquainted with The Spectrum long before the original founders sold it to Landmark.

When I left Albany for the Boston suburbs, I regularly saw picture shows at Landmark’s Kendall Square Cinema and The Embassy in Waltham. However, of The Embassy’s six original screening rooms, only two still show movies. The rest of the space now functions as a gymnastics facility under new ownership. And Landmark itself is now part of Cohen Media Group.

In other words, things change. Still, I remain hopeful The Spectrum’s original four owners will recruit new operators who live for film and will bring the movies back to Delaware Avenue. This is obviously true given my deep affinity for cinemas, right up there with film itself.

Like all commercial real estate, buildings age, and The Spectrum could definitely use a refresh. Then again, so could a couple of other for-profit theaters I have been to lately.

For instance, one of the screening rooms in a gigantic theater I sat in a few months ago lost heat. Accordingly, the affable manager did not charge me for the noon screening of a biopic I didn’t love but thought I should see anyway.

And one of the two theaters I went to this weekend had a leak in the middle of theater six that required mopping, wet floor signage, and a drip bucket.

Of course, on the way to my mother’s on Saturday afternoon, I also drove past the Logan Express Terminal, a parking lot in Braintree. From the highway, I gazed across the lot at what is left of the South Shore Plaza Twin Drive-In. The weathered screen has loomed large since 1985, staring back at commuters for four decades after the outdoor double-feature era ended.

But let us not despair. I want to tell you about a movie that could help us all process such stories.

“Pictures of Ghosts,” directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho.

I wrote down its title during the waning days of 2023 on my list of things to see this year. Though I have no idea when or where I will actually see this, it opens this weekend at Upstate Film’s Orpheum Theatre in Saugerties, N.Y. Suffice it to say if I lived closer, I would be in the front row opening night.

Directed by Brazilian fillmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho, “Pictures of Ghosts” grew out of a journalism school project he worked on 30 years ago. Recording two short documentaries about the demise of movie palaces in Recife in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mendonça Filho created “a time machine with a thousand seats.”

As long as we are talking about a time machine here, why not add a road trip for good measure? The film is a New York Times Critic’s Pick just waiting for you to check it out in Saugerties this weekend.

Before you watch the trailer, one last thing: Remember the words of Mstyslav Chernov when he accepted the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature ten days ago for “20 Days in Mariupol.” He said, “Cinema forms memories, and memories forms history.”

Enjoy the show:

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