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The Kentucky Theatre examines, with humor and intimacy, the rebirth of a historic art house cinema and the unconventional people who work there. An old fashioned historical documentary, with a lot of spunk, it covers eighty years of history as told by its long time employees and fans of the cinema. They explore the challenges of running a small business amidst extravagant suburban competition, the value of buildings with a long term soul, and recent X rated controversies concerning morality.

The Kentucky Theatre opened its palatial doors on October 4, 1922 and is housed within an Italian-Renaissance-style building, replete with golden cherubs on the ceiling and 900 seats on the floor. Unfortunately, it was not all architectural elegance and filmatic fun at the theater; it was built without a ‘colored balcony’ and was not integrated until the 1960s.

The stars of The Kentucky Theatre are two downtown heroes. The unassuming and mild mannered Fred Mills runs the cinema and was the leading force behind the resurrection of the theatre after it was set aflame by a disgruntled waiter at a nearby restaurant. Fred notes, “The Kentucky Theatre was too valuable to let die.” Helping Fred is Raymond, the wiry and outspoken projectionist, who has worked together loyally with Fred for over 40 years. Raymond tenderly cares for the inner workings on the projection booth and runs security during the rowdy midnight movies. During the devastating fire, Raymond bravely entered the burning structure to save the projectors and film prints. He notes upon seeing his workplace in flames, “It took my breath away.” Against all odds, and competing against ‘cattleplex’ suburban cinemas, The Kentucky Theatre has survived and defies. Fred smiles, “For eight decades, the show has gone on!”


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