B-movie lovers find home at St. Louis cinema where Nic Cage is king
On the last Wednesday of the month, one of the outdoor movies at Arkadin Cinema in St. Louis’ Bevo Mill neighborhood is always a roll of the dice.
The microcinema’s owners, husband-and-wife team Keith Watson and Sarah Baraba, don’t tell customers what movie to expect when they buy tickets. Even so, the tiny space is frequently sold out for the night. And it’s because audiences love Drinkolas Cage, Arkadin’s “monthly Nicolas Cage movie and drinking game event.”
“It kind of grew out of something we used to do at home, where we would watch a bad action or horror movie and make up drinking game rules,” Watson said. “We thought, ‘This is going to be great to do with other people.’ It’s by far our bestseller.”
Upon arriving, moviegoers are surprised with what Cage movie is being shown and are given a tailor-made sheet instructing them to “drink!” or “chug” when specific things happen on screen.
During October’s Drinkolas screening (of the little-known Cage movie “Prisoners of the Ghostland,”) the sheet instructed viewers to chug their drink whenever Cage says “I’ll karate chop you!”
Baraba and Watson have also written rules that apply to every Drinkolas movie, including drinking whenever flames, fire or explosions appear on screen.
Drinkolas Cage isn’t Arkadin’s only special event. The cinema hosts B-movie bingo, dog-friendly “Barkadin'' screenings and costume contests. In a world where most movies are easy to find on streaming services, the games help lure people to the theater when they could otherwise sit at home.
“I think that having events like Drinkolas Cage kind of give you an idea of what it’s like to see a movie in a theater and the community around that,” Baraba said. “You get the vibes off everyone and the energy from different scenes and laughing together. You can’t necessarily get that at home by yourself.”
Baraba and Watson opened Arkadin during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. They didn’t originally intend for the tiny theater to be an outdoor space, but the coronavirus forced them to be creative.
The business’s neighbor, the Heavy Anchor bar and music venue, let the theater project movies onto their wall. The outdoor space was a welcome destination for movie fans who were still wary of coronavirus transmission. It also allowed Baraba and Watson to try wacky ideas, including a summer screening of 1978’s PIRANHA! in which the owners encouraged audiences to bring their own kiddie pools to lounge in while they watched.
After two years, the movie theater is finally taking the movies indoors. The owners are finishing renovations on the indoor space, and plan to open a one-screen theater this winter.
The new space will feature couches and armchairs and a bar. It will also allow Arkadin to feature what the two call “quieter” movies.
“It’s going to be a broader selection than what we did outside,” Watson said. “I’m a little bit interested in doing more of the artsy realm of film, and stuff for kids and older people as well. We can do a lot more inside than we can do outside.”
Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge
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