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Fans flock to films Friday

The smooth sounds of jazz emanated from the trumpets and saxophones of South Kitsap High School marching band as patrons entered The Orchard.

A two-screen theater with older ties to Port Orchard than the music played outside reopened Friday after an extensive renovation by its new tenant, Bainbridge Entertainment Enterprises. The two shows, “Across the Universe” and “The Darjeeling Limited,” played to wide-ranging audiences.

“I’ve lived in the Port Orchard and Bremerton area for 10 years and all my friends have lamented that we had to go to Bainbridge Island, Port Townsend or Tacoma to see independent films,” said James Kelsey, 43, who runs a sculptor business in Port Orchard. “We were ecstatic when it opened.”

The theater, which opened in the 1920s and had run continuously since 1980 under building owner Bob Geiger, closed in May 2005.

“It’s cool to have it back here because it’s a historical landmark,” said Emily Sanford, a South Kitsap student who came with classmate Jordan Perry to review Across the Universe for their video production class.

For 66-year-old Patricia Buffardi, who came with her husband, Louis, it was a cultural experience. Buffardi was born an India while her father was in the military and even wrote a book, “Hearts Divided In The Raj,” about growing up there.

“I know the Darjeeling Tea comes from India and I wanted to see the movie,” she said.

Bainbridge Entertainment Enterprises co-owner Jeff Brien said The Orchard, which formerly was known as Plaza Twin Cinemas under Gieger, will rotate movies often during the holiday season because “there are a lot of good holiday films.” He said “I’m Not There,” a movie about Bob Dylan and “No Country for Old Men,” will play beginning Friday. Beginning that day, Brien said the theater will show four shows per day. He said normal production after that will be two shows during weekends and four on weekends.

“We need to see what draws in the community in and what doesn’t,” Brien said. “We want to encourage people to tell us what they want to see. Every market is different. You can’t draw any parallel assumptions that what draws people in Bainbridge Island will bring people out in Port Orchard.”

Brien didn’t have attendance figures, but said they had “near sellouts” Friday and Saturday nights for “Across the Universe.”

“It was really good to see a lot of young folks there that came to see Across the Universe,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of people tell us they remember going to films in days past. There hasn’t been anything for them to draw upon.”

As Kelsey said, “Next year when the academy awards come out, people can say they’ve seen the films.”

Port Orchard also features the 10-screen Regal South Sound Cinema, but Brien doesn’t view them as a competitor because The Orchard’s focus is on independent and arts films.

He said they will spend close to $50,000 on upgrades, many which already have been completed, because “a theater as old as this requires some tender-loving care.” Some revisions include the carpets, drapes, screens and masking. He said there were some technical issues during the weekend, but expects those to be resolved with new projection equipment arriving this week.

Brien said he wants to be active in the business community and hopes the theater, which is located at 802 Bay Street, provides a boon for local businesses.

“I hope that the local business are seeing some impact, particularly those serving food and beverages,” he said. “Everyone has been very gracious.”

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