Railroad Square was a labor of love started by a few friends who loved films. It has survived these many years in a small town in central Maine where many independent cinemas in “better locations” have not. Railroad Square Cinema (RR2 or simply The Square) opened in 1978. In 1994, the original theater burned. Through fund raising and donations the cinema rose from the ashes.
RR2 is, and has been, my Cinema of choice. When it burned I had a pass for 5 movies or so. (and when they reopened, well over a year later, they honored the pass) For many years Laurie and I were weekly ‘regulars’. We would see just about every film shown at the cinema. More recently, in deference to the carbon used in driving 60 miles to see a movie, we had scaled back to once or twice a month.
I am sure others who had long drives to RR2 did too. But the cost of running a cinema did not scale back. New digital projectors, Sound system upgrades and the basic of staff, heating. and cooling keep coming and never get cheaper.
In 2009 RR2 made a much needed move to help the cinema survive. They became a non-profit called ‘The Maine Film Center’. More recently, Maine Film Center merged with another non-profit “Waterville Creates”. The watervillecreates.org/about-us/ explains the progression from an Independent RR2 to The Maine Film Center and finally to being part of Waterville Creates this way.
“2009, the Maine Film Center was formed to unite Railroad Square Cinema and the Maine International Film Festival under one 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Recognizing the value of collaboration and shared resources, the Maine Film Center merged with Waterville Creates in 2018, allowing it to continue expanding its programmatic reach in fulfillment of its mission to educate, entertain, and build community through film.”
As many RR2 fans and Waterville locals know, this merger also plans to consolidate the merging groups into one location at the former Sterns Building in Downtown Waterville. More information about that project at https://www.downtownartscenter.org/
The RR2, like most movie houses, has been closed for a year now and has no anticipated reopening date. As it says on the Waterville Creates website, “Due to the current pandemic, all in-person programming has been suspended.” Because part of the plan (depending on fund raising) is to move the cinema to downtown Waterville, it may well be that Railroad Square Cinema will never reopen at its old building.
So a sad goodbye to an old friend, with wishes of luck.
May the new Maine Film Center Cinema rise from the pandemic ashes just as RR2 did so many year ago.
Update: 04/15/2021 – The work on the new location has begin and Railroad Square intends to open for the Maine International Film Festival July 9-18, 2021 and remain open after the festival finishes.
RR2 picture by Clif Graves.