Art-House America

A Cinematic Hub at the Heart of Music City

Inside Criterion / On the Channel — May 7, 2019


From Ryman Auditorium to the historic entertainment district of Printer’s Alley, Nashville certainly isn’t a city that lacks for cultural landmarks. And country music is far from the only game in town. For a little piece of movie history, look no further than the beautiful Belcourt Theatre, which first opened its doors nearly a century ago, in the midst of the silent era. While the place does have a little twang in its past—in the thirties, before settling at the Ryman, the Grand Ole Opry took to the stage of the silent-film house and vaudeville venue then called the Hillsboro Theatre—today it’s known primarily as the hub of Music City movie culture. For the latest episode of Art-House America—an ongoing program on the Criterion Channel that profiles vibrant film venues across the country, and offers a selection of movies handpicked by their programmers—we paid a visit to Nashville’s Hillsboro Village neighborhood to meet the fine people behind the Belcourt, and to scope out the cinematic community they’ve fostered.

Since going dark for a year and a half at the end of the nineties, the two-screen theater has undergone quite the renaissance, reopening as a nonprofit and eventually finding its way toward a lively calendar that includes buzzy new art-house titles, wide-ranging repertory series, and one-off events. In the video above, the Belcourt’s current brain trust—executive director Stephanie Silverman, programming director Toby Leonard, and education and engagement director Allison Inman—talk about their passion for building a repertory audience, a sustained effort in which the support of late Nashville Scene critic Jim Ridley and the forming of community partnerships have proved crucial. In addition to its film programming, the Belcourt organizes education programs that are held both in the theater and in schools across the city.

Once you’re done watching the whole episode here, make sure to check out the eclectic list of favorites that Toby Leonard has curated over on the Channel, including Louis Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows, Shohei Imamura’s Profound Desire of the Gods, and Lucrecia Martel’s La Ciénega.