Independently-owned Central Cinema offers wide range of movies for all film lovers  


Abby Ann Ramsey

Central Cinema is located in Happy Holler in North Knoxville.

Abby Ann Ramsey, Entertainment Editor

Knoxville gained another movie theater this month, but this one is different from the large chains that engulf the rest of the city.

Central Cinema is an independently owned theater that opened Aug. 16 on North Central Street in the Happy Holler area. The neighborhood moviehouse plans to play a variety of movies ranging from new releases not shown in other Knoxville theaters to old classics that everyone can enjoy.

The creators of the Knoxville Horror Film Festival, William Mahaffey and Nick Huinker, opened the movie house, along with partner Logan Meyers, in an attempt to offer a place where movie lovers can see films, without interruptions such as talking or texting that you might find in a Regal or AMC theater. The goal may have seemed unattainable at first, but the three cinephiles decided to go for it.

“We’ve had this dream for a long time, but we never thought it would work in Knoxville,” Mahaffey said. “The city has changed a lot though, and the growth of the area we’re located in, combined with the continued interest in film in the Knoxville community encouraged us to go for it.”

In June of 2017, the owners started a crowdfunding campaign to open the cinema, beginning with a GoFundMe that raised over $30,000. Donations came with various perks, one of the most popular being the “Adopt-an-Arm” program, where contributors could pay to put a picture of their favorite movie along with their name on an arm rest of one of the seats.

The Central Cinema building has been used as a theater frequently in the past, originally starting out as a silent movie house in 1916. It was recently a Tai Chi Center until Mahaffey, Huinker, and Meyers decided to return it to its original roots. They began renting it last October, and began renovations in April.

The renovations added many unique elements to the theater, one being the movie posters that hang throughout the building. It’s an eclectic range of posters spanning from Jaws to Psycho to the picture of Richard Nixon bowling from The Big Lebowski. The posters give the facility a charming, vintage feel and most were generously lent by Raven Records and Rarities, situated across the street from Central Cinema.

Adding to the charming environment is their well-priced and wide-ranging concession stand that has options for everyone. They also have a comfortable lounge and back patio, intended to be used for discussion.

Although the owners love horror movies, they plan to show a diverse range of films that appeal to more than just the horror lovers they tend to see at Knoxville Horror Film Festival. They intend to keep Central Cinema separate from the festival, so the two are not completely associated with each other.

“That said, we have been screening some great new indie horror films at the theater, and once October hits, you’ll see my love of horror on full display with the lineup we’ve got in mind,” Mahaffey said.

Their lineup normally consists of about four movies a weekend, offering family movie matinees, such as The Iron Giant, along with late night showings of drama, comedy, or action movies, such as Pulp Fiction. They also host other film events such as Movies Under the Stars with Ijams Nature Center, and of course will be hosting Knoxville Horror Film Festival, along with Regal Downtown West 8.

This weekend’s lineup is comprised of a variety of choices with Return to Oz, Ms. 45, Clueless, and What Keeps You Alive.

“We want to be as diverse as possible with our lineup and try to show something for everyone,” Mahaffey said. “We want to bring films to Knoxville that wouldn’t be shown here otherwise, both new and old.”