The Ritz at the Bourse, well-known for its late-night cult screenings for cinema fanatics, closed its doors this week. As the credits roll, we can’t help but contemplate what this means for local theater and small business.
In Old City, there are three cinemas owned by the Landmark theater chain with the preface title “Ritz”: The Ritz Five, which is located at Second and Walnut; The Ritz East also located on Second Street and The Ritz at the Bourse.
The Bourse is a Philadelphia historic site that currently serves as home to the Bourse Food Hall and a variety of offices. If you haven’t checked it out, it’s worth doing so — but this isn’t the food column, which you can find in News. Nestled behind the Bourse Hall is another little building that you might miss if you aren’t looking for it.
When you would walk in the door that sits on the corner, you’d be greeted by a friendly face in a box office. You’d get your ticket and hop on an escalator that brings you down past a big light sign that read: “RITZ AT THE BOURSE.” At the bottom, you’d find a concession stand and a few small theaters that showed a variety of lesser-known movies from distributors like Neon and A24.
The Ritz at the Bourse was possibly best known, however, for its midnight screenings. In a series called “Midnight Madness,” the Ritz at the Bourse would screen cult classic films like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” or “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” at midnight, and fans would come out in droves to bond over their mutual love of these movies.
The Ritz at the Bourse had become a sort of cultural hub for film in Philadelphia, which is why it broke our hearts to see that it had shut down. Obviously, the Midnight Madness showings and small movie screenings can be moved to the other two Ritz locations, but there’s still something very sad about this.
A place that served as a cultural hub for many Philadelphians, especially students, will no longer be around. That is a loss that feels significant and tangible. Though Landmark didn’t comment on the specifics of why they closed the theater down, it could be due to the rent in the increasingly gentrified area rising rapidly, pushing these theaters and other small businesses out of their spaces.
It’s getting harder and harder for smaller cinema to exist in a landscape of content creation that should make it even easier. But large movie production companies like Disney and Universal keep growing and acquiring more of the industry, homogenizing and neutering most of the movies we see today. Filmmakers are losing their outlets to source their films, and the closing of smaller theaters where those efforts are on display doesn’t help.
The closing of the Ritz at the Bourse is bad for us as students and movie viewers, but it is also a bad sign for the state of Hollywood. There’s not much we can do about this, but we can do our best to support the other two Ritz theaters while we still have them. They’re lovely little cinemas that show countless great movies! And there’s no doubt attending a Midnight Madness screening is a great way to spend a Friday night.