He oughta be in pictures

Mike Pitts has a dream job. He gets to watch movies, and he gets to show movies.

But it’s not a simple task. The Bainbridge Island resident doesn’t just get to show what he wants.

He needs to sell tickets while he’s at it, and that’s the challenge — finding interesting, independent films not shown in a standard multi-plex that will sell in Port Orchard at the Orchard Theater.

Pitts does it by mixing new independent films, such as “Lars and the Real Girl” or “My Blueberry Nights” with classic films, such as “Rebel Without A Cause” and “The Birds,” which all fall under the category of simply good filmmaking.

“I’m finding it’s really a learning process,” he said. “Programming a theater was not what I expected it to be.”

Pitts noticed in Port Orchard he’s typically drawing in adults ages 45 to 75, which he suspects are “true film fans” drawn in by the high standard of filmmaking evident in the independent films of today and the classic films they show as well.

But Pitts is trying to branch out as well, bringing in midnight genre films — science fiction and horror specifically — which appeal to a younger crowd. Earlier this month he brought in “Zombie Strippers,” which depicts a world in which military researchers experiment with reanimating fallen soldiers, only to have a group of strippers become zombies instead.

These showings appeal to a younger set not found at other independent theaters in Kitsap, such as the Lynnwood in Bainbridge Island.

And the appeal has grown in the area.

“We didn’t have one last weekend,” Pitts said. “I’ve had people coming after me about that. I love it.”

But a number of his films have not faired as well. Art films tend to lean on the dark side, and he believes a lot of people are looking for escapism. He went to see “Iron Man” at a multi-plex, and loved it, and thought that a lot of people want to see something fantastical and unreal.

But as the spring comes, the type of films at his theater is shifting.

Pitts is bringing in a few more uplifting documentaries, such as “Girls Rock” about a rock-and-roll camp for girls in Portland, Ore., and “Young At Heart” about a choir of senior citizens singing rebellious rock-and-roll songs.

The 32-year-old theater co-owner has always dreamed of working with film in some way. Pitts studied film in school and had planned to be a filmmaker. His interest in film collided with his desire to own a business, which he does now in partnership with the owners of The Lynnwood in Bainbridge Island.

But he started at the bottom and worked his way up.

Lynnwood Theater owner Jeff Brein hired Pitts to work at the concession stands at his theaters selling popcorn. He slowly worked his way up to his position at The Orchard Theater.

Now that he’s in it, he loves it. He’s accomplished a long-time dream.

“I think it’s just some of this corny things people say — I was just really into it as a little kid,” Pitts said of film.

And he still is enthusiastically interested in film.

“My wife is constantly annoyed with all the movies I buy,” he said. “It’s a constant part of my brain in some aspect.”

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