Arts and Culture

Red Ramsey is going to have a tough time saying goodbye to Village 8 in St. Matthews’ duPont Circle.

“I’m gonna miss this place,” Ramsey said. “I can’t believe it’s closing, I still can’t believe it.”

Ramsey has been coming to Village 8 since the early 1990s, and he’s been working here since 2000, making him the discount theater’s longest-tenured employee. Over the last 22 years, he’s worked as an usher, in concessions and trained colleagues. He’s participated in film festivals at the theater. And lately, he’s enjoyed being in the box office and interacting with all of the customers these final weeks.

Red Ramsey has worked at Village 8 for nearly 22 years. He said he doesn't do it for the paycheck. "I do it for the movies."Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

Red Ramsey has worked at Village 8 for nearly 22 years. He said he doesn’t do it for the paycheck. “I do it for the movies.”

“I hate to see y’all close,” a customer said to Ramsey after purchasing two tickets to see “Jurassic World: Dominion.”

“You and me both,” Ramsey replied. 

Despite last-minute pleas from movie-goers, Village 8’s fate, at least at 4014 Dutchmans Ln., is certain. 

The nearly 50-year-old independent movie theater is at the end of its run. Its last day in business is July 5th.

Village 8 main lobby empties out after guests rush off to catch the final showings of the day.Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

Village 8 main lobby empties out after guests rush off to catch the final showings of the day.

Norton Healthcare owns the building, and it didn’t renew the theater’s lease, as reported by Louisville Business First in April. Norton bought the property in 2016, and put tenants on notice. 

Public relations director Maggie Roetker told WFPL News Norton had conversations with businesses in the building “to work on a timeline for the conclusion of their leases.”

“We continue to work on our plans for the future of the property, which will be utilized to increase the community’s access to health care,” Roetker said in an email. “We will announce those plans once they are finalized.”

In April, Louisville-based Apex Entertainment, which operates Village 8 and Baxter Avenue Theatres in the Highlands, released a statement that expressed gratitude to North Healthcare: “Without Norton’s help, Village 8 would not have been able to keep its doors open particularly during COVID. We appreciate the patronage and support of the whole Louisville community.”

Fans and employees lament the loss

Ramsey will be able to transfer Baxter Avenue Theatres after Village 8 closes. But he said it won’t be the same. He’s built a rapport with Village 8 employees, and he’ll miss that.

“I’ve never had a day where I didn’t want to come to work and the time always goes fast,” Ramsey said. “We have so much fun.”

Village 8 employees start to tidy up the concessions area as the final movie showings of the day begin.Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

Village 8 employees start to tidy up the concessions area as the final movie showings of the day begin.

His colleague assistant manager Joseph Siegel agreed.

“A lot of us are going over to Baxter, but there’s something Village 8 had in particular with the camaraderie of the employees,” he said. “I’m really gonna miss that, definitely.” 

Ramsey imagined retiring from Village 8.

“I’m not here for the paycheck. I’m just here for the movies and the experience … I’m just gonna miss everything about it.”

Amelia Adams, who came to see “Downton Abbey: A New Era,” said Village 8 has long represented two things for her: “good movies and good popcorn.”

She prefers the old-school movie-watching experience, and the cheap tickets. 

“I don’t like the fancy chairs. I don’t like reserved seats, it’s not necessary,” she said. “The community is going to feel the loss.” 

Lee Holland purchases a movie ticket at Village 8 discount theater on June 11, 2022. Holland said, over the decades, Village 8 has been his "home away from home."Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

Lee Holland purchases a movie ticket at Village 8 discount theater on June 11, 2022. Holland said, over the decades, Village 8 has been his “home away from home.”

Lee Holland has been coming to Village 8 for more than 20 years. He called it his “home away from home.”

“It’s almost like a basement when I want to get away from family and have time to myself and just escape from the outside world and work,” Holland said. “And oh my gosh, I love the popcorn here.”

About that popcorn, it’s a thing.

Red Ramsey said some people come just for the popcorn.

“Remember the cartoons, and the cat…it would be floating with the aroma? That’s like what people be doing here [with the popcorn],” he said.  

Liz, a Village 8 employee, works the concessions stand on June 11, 2022, one of the discount movie theater's final weekends.Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

Liz, a Village 8 employee, works the concessions stand on June 11, 2022, one of the discount movie theater’s final weekends.

Sure enough, a woman walked right past the box office, waved her hand at Ramsey and went inside. 

“She doesn’t want to see a movie. She wants the popcorn,” Ramsey explained with a laugh, adding that people used to come in with garbage bags to get their fill of popcorn. 

More than a place that shows movies

Village 8 opened in the 1970s, and screened second-run movies. 

But last fall, the theater switched to new releases. At that time, a company representative said the change was due to major shifts within the movie and movie-viewing industry. 

The wait-time between theater and home viewing was already shrinking. It largely disappeared during the COVID-19 pandemic, as some major film studios, such as Warner Bros., dropped new titles immediately onto streaming platforms. 

General manager Matthew Kohorst said that killed second-run for them, and business was slower since the pandemic. But he thinks they “would have done OK.” 

“If Norton hadn’t bought the building and we were allowed to stay here and pay rent. We were doing that.”

Ross Melnick, a professor of film and media studies at University of California Santa Barbara, believes the movie-going experience will survive these recent industry changes – after all, it’s survived new ideas and technology in the past, like television, pay-per-view cable, video games and the internet. People also seemed eager to get out of the house to watch “Top Gun: Maverick” and the latest installment in the “Jurassic Park” franchise. 

But there’s still a loss every time a theater closes because “movie theaters are not just about where films play,” said Melnick, who also co-founded the movie theater guide site Cinema Treasures

A box for collecting movie tickets at Village 8 discount theater in St. Matthews is labeled "V8."Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

A box for collecting movie tickets at Village 8 discount theater in St. Matthews is labeled “V8.”

“That venue isn’t just a place where people saw ‘Gremlins,’ or ‘Forrest Gump,’” Melnick said. “It was a place where they went on dates, and they brought their families. They went to that theater with people who are no longer with us.”

It’s nostalgia.

“When these things go away they’re sad, but they are instructive,” Melnick continued. 

He hopes it will show how much cultural venues are a part of the equation that “constitutes community,” and the role individuals can play in helping ensure their future. 

For now, these Village 8 die-hards are savoring their last few flicks at the discount theater and their final buckets of the famous popcorn.

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.