The first time Lillian Randall saw the vacant building on Historic 25th Street in Ogden, she knew she had to have it—if for nothing else than to simply repurpose a key location in the “happening part of town.” Since that decision a little over seven years ago, she’s made sure a lot has been happening in the quaint locale of her micro-sized Cinema 502.
“That’s what we named it, because it’s 502 square feet,” she says, adding, “but it’s actually a bit smaller than that.”
No matter. Her love of independent films, coupled with the fact that there was no theatre offering arthouse movies in Ogden, made this business decision an easy one.
“I was just looking for space on 25th,” she says. “I could visualize the possibilities just looking in the window. I could see what we call the crow’s nest—like a little balcony or loft, and there was the perfect place for a projector booth. It was easy to see this space as a cinema.” Everything was compact—that space in the crow’s nest forces anyone over 4’ 2” to bend over—and although the building’s occupancy is listed as 49 people, Randall has room for 28 seats, one of them for wheelchair accessibility.
Randall’s first passion is music. She has played guitar since she was five and brass instruments since age eight. “I spent a lot of time watching movies as a child. My mom gave me a VHS rewinder, which may have been the best present I ever received.” She loved watching comedies and musicals—shows with Steve Martin or Mel Brooks, or titles like Willy Wonka or the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
“What I enjoyed most was the musical scores of the films,” she says. “It was love of music that ultimately made me want to get into the film business.”
Randall shows indies whenever she wants to. There’s no shortage of filmmakers and distributors who want her to screen their creations. But she is selective in the nine or so movies she shows each month. Right now, she screens a lot of classic films from the ‘30s and ‘40s, and sci-fi or animation as well. “I try to catch the street crowd with some free screenings, and they love coming here,” she says.
Randall will be the first to tell you there are some very good independent films that haven’t gotten distribution—sometimes because they haven’t been rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
“Often the filmmakers haven’t been able to get a rating because that’s an expensive process,” she says. “That doesn’t mean some of these films aren’t good ones, but there’s that unwritten cliché that if a movie hasn’t been rated, it’s lousy. That’s not always the truth.”
So when the film pickings get slim, Cinema 502 gets plenty of use in a different way: as host site for other events.
“I’ve flipped the model a bit and focus on party rentals,” she says. “I feel good about the cinema being used frequently. We’ve booked birthday parties, bachelorette parties and business parties. They can show training videos or watch something fun at their parties. And our cinema works very well for them.”
Through her Facebook and Instagram accounts, Randall has built a loyal clientele, and Cinema 502 is proving to be a popular destination along Ogden’s 25th Street.