Even in a pandemic, Ragtag Cinema's shows must Go On

C-Deck: While people are cautious of sitting in theaters, Ragtag offers an alternative method to watch artistic film.

Over a year ago, I saw “Scream” at Ragtag Cinema. I watched Drew Barrymore and her flawlessly cropped blonde hair as I ate popcorn and lounged in a recliner. Little did I know that in just one year, every day would make me want to do just as the movie did: scream. But according to Ragtag Film Society, my craving for an American slasher film might be tangible.

The art house plans to host two series of outdoors screenings with emphasis on COVID protocol, while aiming to provide the full movie experience. Viewers can expect to see some Halloween favorites and classic horror films at an outdoor venue to be announced at a later date.

No moviegoer wants to be ridden with guilt or discomfort over sitting in a small, enclosed space. There are two sides to this debacle because supporting local businesses is immensely important for the city of Columbia, but so is personal health, safety and social distancing.

That is why Ragtag’s attempt to provide cinematic pleasure outdoors in a safe, spacious environment is a great substitute to in-house screenings.

Ragtag will also continue “CoMo Famous,” an all outdoors Boone County event that invites local celebrities to showcase their favorite films at venues of their choice.

Ragtag programmer Ted Rogers spoke on the barriers the pandemic poses to audiences and how COVID-19 has affected business.

“The support is there, just a lot of our patrons fall into the high-risk category and are not necessarily ready to come back into the theater,” Rogers said.

While Ragtag still screens indoors at minimal capacity, Rogers said their customers feel more comfortable with outdoor screenings. Their recent outdoor event had a large turnout. Ragtag’s 20th Birthday Drive-In was an instant success. In just 24 hours, Rogers said it raised $200,000 in order to maintain the cinema’s financial stability.

These alternative screenings help Ragtag provide for their consumers while still remaining safe. Rogers said he is thankful they have an audience that trusts them and there are things that set them apart from large, corporate megaplex theaters.

“Megaplexes are completely dependent on there being new movies that are going to draw people in, but Ragtag, I think, and other art houses are in a slightly better position,” Rogers said.

Ragtag has built an audience through their curation, their repertoire and showing older films, and since their mechanisms of showing films have altered, their approach is now more about providing the same content in different ways.

Sure, the environment is different. Outdoors is not the same hub of dining and full bar access or the leather recliners in an intimate auditorium that is quintessentially Ragtag. But I would argue that being outdoors for a screening brings a sense of comfort and joy during the pandemic.

Being able to enjoy artistic film without exposing myself to coronavirus is an accommodation Ragtag offers that is given nowhere else. And that is why I will keep supporting them.

Edited by George Frey | gfrey@themaneater.com

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