At Cary's Galaxy, a last picture show flickers to an end

Cary’s indie film venue will be replaced by a Harris Teeter

kjahner@newsobserver.comNovember 11, 2012 

Chris Hvezda of Apex said she teared up thinking about how “Searching for Sugarman” would be the last film she’d see at Galaxy Cinema in Cary.

“It’s sad. There’s no other place like it,” Hvezda, a nurse from Duke Hospital, said. On its final day of operation, employees and regular patrons of Galaxy Cinema expressed disappointment at what they regard as a unique establishment in Cary, a theater showing a mix of foreign and independent films which the property owners plan to develop into a Harris Teeter supermarket.

Patrons praised the theater for its sense of community, the friendliness of its staff, the movies that are shown at few other establishments and even the popcorn. Employees spoke of work they enjoyed in a lax atmosphere with no real dress code or formalized corporate structure as they provided patrons with popcorn, drinks – including beer and wine – and films in the dying medium of 35 millimeter film.

Rebecca Reid and Eranda Stallings have been attending movies together at Galaxy since it opened, relishing in the atmosphere and uniqueness of the place.

“We love foreign flicks, the variety, the chance to go around the world in the theater,” said Reid, who also praised the staff. “It was sort of like a family in a way. There was that interest in film and so it was more than passing money over the counter to get a piece of paper to go down the aisle.”

Employees had known since June about York Properties’ plans to redevelop the site, but didn’t know when the hammer would fall. On Wednesday, they found out they had less than a week before their last day. Current and former employees planned to get together at the theater Sunday night to mark the occasion.

“Everybody on staff knows the regulars, the regulars know each other. I know people that have met their future wife or husband here,” said Sibel Yaman, who until last month worked in marketing at Galaxy.

Reel nostalgia

Matt Gronke, a college student studying physics at N.C. State, works as the projection manager and has been at the theater through multiple ownerships since he was 16. It’s good that he’s studying another field, because his current trade has been rendered largely obsolete by digital projectors.

“We’re like a record production company or something. It’s stuff that’s gone the way of the dinosaur. But it’s sad, because since film was created, it’s been like this, and it’s finally going away for good.”

Co-worker Chris Ward, who will fall back on his other job at Barns & Noble, noted that he made a point to see “The Master” at the theater this weekend.

“It was scratched, which was kind of fitting,” he said of the movie being shown “warts and all.”

Owners have said the theater remains in high demand. Manager Brantley Sawyer, who also worked at Madstone Theaters before the chain shut down and the Cary building became Galaxy Cinema, said the theater’s finances had nothing to do with the closing. The holder of a degree in zoology from N.C. State and film production from UNC Wilmington said the closing will be a loss.

“We’re all sad. The owners are sad, the customers are sad,” he said.

Hope for a new theater

The owners of the business are looking into places to re-open, Sawyer said, but nothing is concrete. Multiple patrons said they hope a rich benefactor would provide another venue for what the Galaxy offered.

“I wish someone that had deep pockets would come in and find a place to put this. I think we need a venue like this. I hope someone can fulfill the need and make some money if they have to,” Reid said.

Many patrons hope it’s nearby. That area of the Triangle is home to a large portion of the region’s Indian-American population, and Indian “Bollywood” films were a big revenue driver for the theater.

Dr. Nick Bhattacharya, a nursing professor at Wake Tech and N.C. State, frequented the theater for both English and Indian films. He likes the Indian films’ romantic and musical elements, and that they present family-friendly and affordable entertainment options.

“We are going to miss it,” Bhattacharya said.

As they hope for Galaxy to find another home, patrons can still see independent movies at a handful of other sites such as the Rialto in Raleigh. But Galaxy showed a large number of films that don’t currently appear in other such theaters, and current patrons said it wouldn’t be the same.

“Heavy sigh,” Reid said when asked about finding other theaters, and then laughed. “We’ll keep going to flicks. We’ll find them.”

Jahner: 919-829-4822

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