How far would you go to see a movie?

Thanks to venues such as Space Gallery ( and the “little chain theater that could,” the Nickelodeon (, each of which make concerted efforts to bring obscure and/or foreign films right into our neighborhood, Portland does an above-average job catering to the cinematic needs of southern Maine film freaks. But if there’s one immutable truth about film freaks, it’s that we are ever ravenous for more.

We find nothing weird at all about hopping in our cars and heading off on a day trip to check out that new documentary about bees or the feminist art movement. And if there’s a special showing of a silent classic accompanied by a live ragtime band playing the film’s original score? I’m already gassing up the truck.

The Strand Theater in Rockland ( is the movie mecca of the midcoast, and, yes, in the next few weeks you can see the acclaimed bee documentary “Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?”, the art doc “!Women Art Revolution,” and a big screen showing of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid” with the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra performing Chaplin’s own film score.

Opened in 1923 and extensively renovated in 2005 with up-to-date sound and projection systems, a restored interior and an appropriately bright and old-timey marquee, The Strand (which also hosts live concerts and comedy) is like an oasis, a splash of flickering film magic in the Maine wilderness.

“They have to be good,” explains Liz McLeod, the Strand’s house manager/projectionist when asked about how the venue’s films are chosen. “They have to be things that are worth our time and our audience’s time. We want to entertain, and we want audiences to think a bit.”

As to the seemingly daunting prospect of running a small art theater away from a major city, McLeod asserts that the Rockland community is “very supportive — it’s the locals who stick with us through the winter. They know our films are good, because they trust our judgement.”

She also encourages film pilgrims to make a day of it by stopping in at the Farnsworth Art Museum ( just across the street, saying, “If you haven’t visited the Farnsworth, you’re missing out.”

So, is it really worth it to travel an hour and a half each way to see a movie that runs an hour and a half?

True film fans know the answer to that one.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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