Home » The new owners of Manlius Cinema are reviving the classic CNY cinema scene

The new owners of Manlius Cinema are reviving the classic CNY cinema scene

by Stewart Cole

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When Dan Chapman and Joe Ori purchased the historic Manlius Cinema in December, the theater was in need of repair. The basement was leaking and the building’s electrical system was malfunctioning — the historic hidden gem needed work.

But from day one, they knew they wanted one thing: a Halloween celebration.

“We think Halloween is a really fun time for people to get into (horror movies),” Chapman said. “Autumn is in the air, maybe sometimes it’s a little rainy, it’s like perfect weather for watching movies. “

Chapman and Ori, who own a bar next to the theater called AW Wander, wanted to use their new space to bring some classics to the community, and both are lifelong horror fans. Ory called himself a “huge John Carpenter fan” and Chapman loves “An American Werewolf in London.” The couple made sure their favorites entered “Manlius Cinema Presents: Halloween 2023,” a cinematic celebration from October 17 to 31.

The program will feature eight classic films, including “Halloween,” “Beetlejuice” and “Carrie.” The selections are favorite movies from the 1970s and 80s, which are today few available in theaters. However, any of these films could have played at the Manlius Cinema during their original run, as the single-screen theater is over a century old.

In its long history, the Manlius Cinema has never been anything but a cinema. It adapted and survived the transition from silent to sound pictures and then film to digital. Ori said its previous owners, Nat Tobin and Eileen Lowell, made sure to sell the theater to buyers who would preserve its heritage.

“Dan (Chapman) and I both had a passion for cinema, filmmaking, that general scene, so we ended up taking it on,” Ori said. “We’re going to try to keep it a movie theater because that’s what’s good for the community.”


For decades, the theater served as an art house that brought independent and foreign films to audiences in central New York. His choices often went against the other theaters. In early November 1978, While multiplexes and local theaters across the country were showing John Carpenter’s hit slasher “Halloween” – the opening film of Chapman and Ori’s holiday program – Manlius Cinema dedicated its only screen to the Oscar-winning French film “Madame Rosa”.

Maxine Brackbill | Photo editor

Manlius Cinema changed ownership last December and was purchased by Joe Ori and Dan Chapman. They aim to continue showing art films like the previous owner, but introduce films that appeal to a wider audience, such as their current Halloween event.
Maxine Brackbill | Photo editor

Now, as new owners, Chapman and Ori hope to strike a balance between Manlius Cinema’s arthouse film tradition by showing films like “Past Lives” and “Asteroid City” while also presenting opportunities for the community to see mainstream films such as “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie.” Chapman said the theater provides audiences with a more personal environment to watch new releases than a multiplex.

“We’re still trying to hold on to a lot of the art films that Nat (Tobin) ran and make sure we continue to keep that community active,” Ori said. “But at the same time, also, our goal has always been to expand on … programming and bring some families here.”

The theater’s themed programming blocks, which Chapman and Ori introduced this month, are a key part of their commitment to maintaining independent programming at Manlius Cinema. In addition to its Halloween slate, the theater put on a retrospective of John Carpenter’s work earlier this month, called Carpenterfest, all while still making room for Swifties with screenings of “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” in the mix .

Kendall Phillips, professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University, has visited the Manlius Cinema in the past and appreciated that the Carpenterfest program included some lesser-known titles. Phillips wrote several books for horror films, including “Dark Directions,” which covers three major horror directors, including Carpenter.

Phillips said independent theaters like the Manlius provide a space for people to share cultural experiences without resorting to Netflix.

“An independent theater can bring diverse voices to its community and challenge and challenge us,” Phillips said. “I’m thrilled that Manlius is still there. I wish there were more theaters like this in Syracuse, but I really encourage all students to make it a point to go support the Manlius Cinema. We need these independent spaces.”

Chapman and Ory extensively renovated the theater after taking over. Along with fixing leaks and electrical work, the couple had a bigger problem. Early in their property in May, the digital projector broke only 15 minutes before a show.Ezoic

For a moment, it appeared that the theater would have to close indefinitely. But miraculously, the Manlius Cinema found another independent theater in Virginia that sold them a replacement.

“As soon as we installed it, the picture quality was better. The sound quality was better because they had a better codec,” Chapman said. “It wasn’t like we just replaced an old projector with the same old projector and carried on, we actually got some upgrades that benefited the cinema experience.”


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