Cable Car Cinema & Cafe

204 South Main Street,
Providence, RI 02903

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Showing 1 - 25 of 30 comments

Chris1982
Chris1982 on November 2, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Opened on October 30, 1976.

kzirkel
kzirkel on April 23, 2014 at 7:45 am

Here’s a nice history of the Cable Car Cinema. Originally the building was a truck garage of a moving company. The name comes from “a classic cable car that was left behind”. The cafe was added around 1989.

stranddan
stranddan on October 8, 2013 at 8:25 am

Moved from RI to CT ten years ago, so have not seen the Cable Car since then. I did patronize it often through the years, even though I believed those couches just might be unsanitary! Almost invariably, the film was interrupted by some sort of projection difficulty. But it was a fun place, even lunching outside.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on June 30, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Sounds like my kind of place maybe not a “MOVIE PALACE” but cool in another way.Also it has a great name and location.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 26, 2010 at 2:48 am

John,
Thank you. I have been trying for several years to post here everything of relevance I can find about RI area theatres…though I ad a bit about theatres elsewhere.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on June 25, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Gerald, I have spent the better part of the day perusing the fascinating comments that you have submitted regarding the past and current movie houses of (mostly) Rhode Island. While I will probably never visit most of these places – though I did spend a weekend in Woonsocket many years ago and have visited Newport on several occasions – your vivid descriptions – and vintage pictures – of the old movie palaces and the communities they served was most enjoyable. It also revived memories of my own early cinematic experiences when growing up in Greenpoint Brooklyn.

This is one of the reasons why this is such a wonderful site.

Keep up the good work!

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 25, 2010 at 8:37 am

Plans for the creation of this cinema in 1976, as reported in Boxoffice magazine, March 8, 1976:
View link

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 25, 2010 at 8:36 am

That no-splice caveat is for archival film prints and certain distributors, such as Rialto. This is a good move.
Let’s hope they get correct screen masking, aperture plates, lenses to show 35mmm films in the various aspect ratios correctly and un-cropped CinemamScope.

50sadchairs
50sadchairs on June 14, 2010 at 8:39 pm

The previous reference to The Revival House is relevant as the owner/operators of this closed theater are now the new owner/operators of the Cable Car. It is currently undergoing major renovations during the summer of 2010 and it is rumored they might be adding a second film projector to show the old films again. (The film distributors no longer want film houses to splice the films and thus one projector is a major handicap to show old films.) It is slated to reopen August 16th or 17th.

50sadchairs
50sadchairs on June 14, 2010 at 8:36 pm

The previous reference to The Revival House is relevant as the owner/operators of this closed theater are now the new owner/operators of the Cable Car. It is currently undergoing major renovations during the summer of 2010 and it is rumored they might be adding a second film projector to show the old films again. (The film distributors no longer want film houses to splice the films and thus one projector is a major handicap to show old films.) It is slated to reopen August 16th or 17th.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on December 31, 2008 at 1:14 pm

The Cable Car Cinema, now under new management, has recently had its auditorium refurbished. I peeked in at the spiffy new black couches and new theatre seats. Rather nice. Now if they would spend some additional money on a screen that can accomodate CinemaScope’s 1:2.35 format for movies made in that ratio, and some adjustable masking, it would be a real advancement. Anamorphic wide screen films continue to be substantially cropped at the right and left edges in this cinema. For their opening post-remodeling presentation the theatre ran It’s a Wonderful Life. The format was DVD projection!!!!! I was informed they couldn’t get a 35mm print. Just as well, since the top and bottom of this 1:1.33 ratio film would have been cropped in the hopelessly untutored and destructive projection that reigns here. I hope the DVD wasn’t colorized.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 13, 2008 at 11:34 am

“….is this a flat floor auditorium?”

Almost. Very slight incline.

longislandmovies
longislandmovies on July 13, 2008 at 10:14 am

Thanks for the fast responce……is this a flat floor auditorium?/

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 13, 2008 at 10:03 am

Yes, go to http://www.flickr.com , enter “Cable Car Cinema” in search, and you will find a few. It’s not much to look at inside.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 13, 2008 at 9:21 am

Here is a vintage photo of the Cable Car Cinema building when it was M. Burns Motor Transportation in 1962:
View link

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 26, 2006 at 11:16 am

The do get some first-run films, generally of the off-beat type. Currently playing is a first run of Stay Until Tomorrow, made by local filmmaker Laura Colella. I plan to see it tonight. They showed the documentary Why We Fight as a Providence first-run. The French Film Festival, run here by Brown University, is a nice annual event. They are hosting part of the Latino Film Festival starring Friday. In the café they always have walls covered with posters of films that are presumably coming attractions. Some of them in fact never come. Entertainment Weekly last year named this one of the top ten theatres in the nation. But it does have a haphazard aura…part of its slovenly charm.

hardbop
hardbop on April 26, 2006 at 9:37 am

What is odd is why this theatre has to be a second run art house considering the vast amount of features that are dumped into theatres each week. In NYC we get a double-digit number of new films opening each week. This week, according to today’s Voice, 15 films are opening this week. I can’t imagine that the bulk of these films that open in NYC even make it to Rhode Island. It seems with some intelligent programming there is a market niche to be exploited.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on November 21, 2005 at 2:52 am

Rhode Island has another cinema-café, the Revival House in Westerly. While it doesn’t have theatre-type seating (or couches!) and employs DVD projection rather than 35mm like the Cable Car, it does have wider-ranging programs of new, old, and harder-to-see films. Check the Revival House page and their website.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on September 16, 2005 at 3:34 am

Before the building had been converted to a cinema in 1976, it had been vacant a bit after being the Burns Michael Trucking Company for several decades. The Providence City Directory lists 204 South Main Street under that business name way back to the 1930s.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on September 15, 2005 at 3:28 am

On January 16, 1977 there was a short piece in the Providence Journal about Ray Bilodeau, who had recently opened the Cable Car Cinema less than three months before. In it Mr. Bilodeau complains about smallish audiences, losing money on the venture, even going broke, not being able to get films from some of the major distributors because of oppressive guarantees, and other problems.

It wasn’t until well into the 1980s, under the ownership of his brother Al Bilodeau and subsequent management by Al’s son and Ray’s nephew Eric Bilodeau that the cinema began enjoying some apparent success, due in no small measure to the enormously profitable café portion of the cinema, which is open all day, even outside of film screening times and caters to the abundant number of students from RISD, which abuts the cinema-café. The café generates interest in the films; the films bring money to the café. In some ways this is not a cinema with a café but a café with a cinema. Which is just fine.

brianmichela
brianmichela on August 24, 2005 at 9:46 am

I saw “Luther” at the Cable Car Cinema on a Sunday afternoon. Being the first to arrive, I had to wait a while for the theater to open. Few people attended the matinee. I enjoyed the movie, but not the experience of sitting on a big sofa in a theater. Furthermore, the film print was a poor one. It displayed lines throughout the movie which, at times, was rather annoying.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 15, 2005 at 6:09 am

Opening of the Cable Car Cinema

An article in the Providence Journal of September 16, 1976 reported the projected opening of the Cable Car that was set for October 20. The piece quoted a description of the new cinema by owner/creator Raymond Bilodeau as being a place of “rugged architecture and elegance.” The place seems actually to have opened, quietly, around October 30, 1976 when the first feature shown was Luther, a film in the American Film Theatre series which had previously been shown in Rhode Island. The cinema, formerly a garage, was to have armchairs, love seats and sofas and a seating capacity of 130.

In fact, the theatre had a seating capacity that was more like 175 initially and was reduced to about 130 about fifteen years later when the place was modified to accomodate café tables to the right of the open projection booth and a kitchen was carved out of one of the former two bathrooms and part of the rear of the auditorium.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 6, 2005 at 9:33 am

The magazine Entertainment Weekly has named the Cable Car Cinema one of the top ten theatres in the nation in its August 8, 2005 edition. It cites a variety of reasons. Here is a report from the Providence Journal.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 18, 2005 at 7:04 am

For the record: across Power Street from the little Cable Car Cinema “block,” on the same side of South Main Street, used to stand the Talma Theatre. The Talma was not a movie house, to my knowledge, but was used by The Players, a Providence theatre group, from 1909 until 1932, when they moved to the Barker Playhouse, converted from an old church, on Benefit and Transit Streets. The Talma was torn down and the spot is a parking lot. I believe the Talma may have been called the Lyceum at one time. The Barker Playhouse remains.