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Arthouse cinema opens on Moana Lane (updated)

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Not so fast: Theater 42 isn’t your typical cinema, and for now, it’s not anything after being shut down by the city. The theater, which opened last week, was swiftly shut down after city officials said the owner did not make necessary building improvements before opening.

Our original report is below.

Theater 42 isn’t your typical cinema. Instead of featuring big budget new releases for mainstream audiences, the converted law office on Moana Lane seats 20 in a mini movie theater showcasing arthouse cinema. The list of movies, played one at a time and two per night, are a reflection of owner Austin Lugo’s personal favorites.

“As a child, the arthouse cinema was my haven,” Lugo said. “It was my escape from a world that I didn’t really fit into. It was where dreams became realities, where I could be who I really was.”

The Indiana transplant dreamed up Theater 42 after moving to Reno. Once inundated by arthouses near Indianapolis, he was shocked to see that even with a population ten times that of his hometown, Reno didn’t have any arthouses within city limits. 

“The films that I grew up with, the films that made me who I am as a person and a filmmaker, were suddenly impossible to find. That’s why I started this project,” he said.

Theater 42 held its grand opening on Thursday, Jan. 5. As part of the first show, Lugo showed his favorite film, “Playtime,” a 1967 cinematic failure that lost its creator his entire fortune after dumping what would be more than $30 million today into the flop. While the movie garnered no commercial success in France or the U.S. where it was released, its highbrow comedy style has captivated audiences since.

The second film of the night, “Circus,” possessed more notoriety thanks in large part to the star of the show—Charlie Chaplin. 

It’s not just the movies that hint to a simpler time at Theater 42; the entire feel of the theater transports guests. Tickets can be purchased for $15 a pop from the quaint lobby, along with candy and popcorn to enjoy during the film, before taking your seat in the viewing room next door.

Falling in line with the reputation of arthouse cinema, films shown at the theater are typically independent features, created to satisfy a niche market. And if that is the goal, then Theater 42 meets it head on.

Films will rotate and change throughout the months and include a collection of old-timey oddities such as “Down by Law,” a film about two men framed and sent to jail only to escape with the help of a convicted murderer; “The Freshman” about a nerdy freshman seeking popularity at his new high school; and “400 Blows,” a tale of a young man drawn to petty crime under a lack of supervision.

The space also serves as a gathering purpose for “all the weirdos, misfits, and oddballs of the world,” according to Lugo. In addition to meeting for eccentric viewings, there is also a game room for playing board games and video games with friends.

If a film is marked as a special presentation, theater goers can expect to see more than just a movie, often including interviews with participants and reviewers who discuss the film’s historical context and impact after release. 

“More than just showing the film, we study the ins and outs of each film, providing the viewer with a historical context of the film, filmmaker and the crew,” Lugo said. “It is a forum in which we not only get to watch film, but discuss film.”

Movie times are available on the website, theater42.org, where advanced tickets can be purchased.

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Nora Tarte
Nora Tarte
Nora Heston Tarte is a long-time Reno resident living on the southside of town. In addition to food, her hobbies include wine, hiking, yoga and travel. She is also the managing editor of a regional, lifestyle publication and freelances for other publications most frequently in the travel space. Nora received her bachelor's in Journalism from California State University, Sacramento before graduating from University of Nebraska, Lincoln with a master’s in Professional Journalism. You can follow her travel adventures, and local exploits, on her Instagram account @wanderlust_n_wine.

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