Cinema Treasures

Cinematreasures.org is an internet database of movie theaters throughout the world that got started in 2000 to unite movie theaters with patrons by creating an online guide for movie theaters while preserving the history of them along with the movie going experience.  All in all a website for people who are “passionate about movie theaters and going to the movies” according to the about us section from the website.

Founded by Ross Melnick and Patrick Crowley the site gained interest for its user based comments on theaters past and present.  Ideally, every theater that ever existed would have a brief description about its history and a photo, although this has continually been a work in progress.  Some theaters have multiple photos and an extensive timeline of events from the theater while others are just names on a page with a Google Street View of the area today.

There are many add-ons to this site such as a book written by Ross Melnick and Andrew Fuchs called Cinema Treasures, a running blog about movie theaters opening or closing, an updates sidebar referring to theaters’ pages that have new information, and multiple links to articles from major sources like the New York Times and USA Today.  The Cinema Treasures team is working multiple angles to preserve movie theater history, but in trying to advance their cause they may have forgotten their roots.

While many searchable terms, phrases, locations, styles, and people connected to each movie theater give the user a sense of ultimate control over the site most of these searchable items are not organized by sort able categories.  All of the photos and videos on the site are added by users, and while a database of over 29,000 photos is of significance there should be grouping options to filter out some photos by location or name, the same goes for the 121 videos available.  And without a theater name underneath the thumbnail image the content forces the user to click on a link to see its name and if any additional information is available, the majority of these photos only provide a name as accompaniment.  Even the basic search at the top of the page has numerous flaws; the city or state searches yield minimal results because the addresses on most of the theaters do not have this information listed.  Fortunately ZIP Code searches produce a complete database of movie theaters past and present, but this is a major flaw for visitors not familiar with this procedure.

There is a lot of room for growth here, but after ten years of providing content on movie theaters one would think there would be some kind of leveled playing field between theaters with pages on the site.  Maybe a minimum amount of information such as an opening date, number of seats per screen(s), architect or company behind the structure, a demolition date if it is no longer standing, and a photo of what the theater looked like should be required for a theater to have its own page.  Sadly this is not the case, and many of the theater listings are missing basic information which would help locate the theater for its visitors.

However, through all of this clutter the website has grown into a user dominated comment system that links articles and photos to theaters around the world from their theater page.  This comment section is the heart of each movie theater with information ranging from articles, archived photos, databases of films played, stories about visiting the theater, and arguments between users.  This section was designed so that users could preserve their memory of the theater, and strangely enough these memories outweigh the content put together for each theater’s description.  Today Cinema Treasures is a website dominated by user contributions, from the creator’s perspective it could live up to Wikipedia and You Tube, but in reality it more closely resembles a scattered social network trying to find its place in the world.

While this site did help my project extremely, navigating the different searches and comments made the experience very distorted.  This sort of information should be organized for visitors to the site in order to keep fueling the comments about nostalgic fans who want to share their story about their connection to the theater or for someone who unearths an article or photo from a forgotten time.  Cinema Treasures is onto the right idea by creating a user generated guide to movie theaters around the country, but without updating the actual content pages for each theater to better resemble a timeline of events this site remains more of a comments page gone crazy.

 

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