Bantam wait: Another indie theater gears up

As Vinegar Hill prepares to duke it out with Regal cinemas for the art film market in Charlottesville, another independent art house is gearing up to open, but its co-founder says it won't be competing with the other two theaters.

"We're going to be a true independent film space," says photographer turned filmmaker Jason Lappa, who's joined forces with freelance journalist Jayson Whitehead to open the Bantam Theater in the former Live Arts building on Market Street in January.

Lappa points out that while films that screen at Vinegar Hill and the newly converted downtown Regal may be described as "indie" films, those movies often have big name distributors and have typically found some success on the festival circuit.

That won't always be the case at Bantam, where Lappa says, he hopes to be working directly with filmmakers whose work hasn't yet been widely seen. Many of the films may be locally made, he says, and he also envisions hosting what might be described as an "open mic night for filmmakers," where directors of short films could screen their work and get audience feedback.

"I want it to be a community for filmmakers and film lovers," he says.

Lappa is aiming to offer the first official screening at Bantam the third week in January, followed in the next months by a series of "mini film-festivals," and says that while ticket prices haven't yet been set, "it's going to be relatively inexpensive" compared to the $9.50 Vinegar Hill charges and Regal's price of $10.50.

The space, which was most recently home to Club 216 until the after-hours club closed in January, will be outfitted with couches and beanbags for a more casual, comfortable viewing experience. And while Lappa says he hopes to eventually be able to add wine and beer to the concession offerings, drinking won't be the focus, and he's happy about that.

"In Charlottesville, there's very little for people that want to go out and do something that doesn't involve getting wasted," he says. "Everything's so focused on 'the scene.' We'll provide an alternative to that, and it's a great thing."

The original caption described Jason Lappa as a "filmmaker turned photographer." He is the opposite, and the caption has been corrected.–ed.


First he's a photographer turned filmmaker, then he's a filmmaker turned photographer? Which is it? Charlottesville already has an "indie" theater. I'm curious what "relatively inexpensive" means. I love Vinegar Hill, so I'm going to hold off judgment on this place. Hopefully they're just trying to fill another niche and not compete with them.

There's lots to do in Charlottesville that doesn't involve "getting wasted". Read the paper!

stop being such a doubter, Casual Reader, and wish him luck. At least someone in town is trying to do something affordable and pop-up instead of opening the newest million dollar restaurant. Go Jason, Go!

I love this idea. I have been to a few houses like this outside the country and they are very different than the other kind of independent movie houses I have known. C-ville is ready for a space like this.

so excited for something new to go into this space! i think there is definitely room for another art house-style theater in the downtown area-- hopefully they can do some fun unique shows of things you don't get to see "on the big screen" in our current theaters

This sounds pretty all right to me. Congrats, dude.

Charlottesville has been waiting for a space like this! I'm always impressed by the creative minds of this town and I look forward to seeing what the Bantam Theatre will bring to the arts circuit.

Looking forward to it! I love vinegar hill and im sure i'll love bantam! looking forward to a different and more casual independent film perspective! congrats jason! sending good vibes your direction!

I am so excited to suggest some great films for these guys--charlottesville needs something on the local level when it comes to the arts and cinema.

Casual reader, I see nothing where this article states he is a "Filmmaker turned Photographer". I wouldn't read so casually. There is very little for adults to do in C-ville after having lived there for decades that doesn't involve going to a bar. The article states Lappa said there was "very little" to do in C-ville that does't involve getting wasted. He did not say there was NOTHING to do. Please read less casually. I think it is great that someone is taking the initiative to do add to the community that is not only inexpensive, where you can have a conversation without blaring music and is educational. GO JASON and much success.

@Outta C-ville: The caption originally said "filmmaker turned photographer." I corrected it and thought it had been noted. I'm noting it now.--Courteney Stuart

grassroots film !!! love it!!!!

very exciting to see this space getting put to good use and with the amazing amount of quality independent content that is being produced these days, it's great to see someone setting up a venue where we can enjoy it as a community. sites like vimeo are overflowing with top-notch, original content from every conceivable genre thanks to ever-more-affordable video production. having a space to share with friends and neighbors the experience of watching all the great videos that don't fit in with the traditional movie theater model is something that i, for one, look forward to and with all the amazing local filmmakers and all the great talent coming out of the lighthouse, vcu and other virginia schools, there should be no shortage of great video to enjoy.

Bantam theater is exactly what Cville needs! Bravo!!!


I agree with JJ, I think there are a lot of great films out there that never makes it to the spotlight. This could be the perfect place for a local filmmaker to be discovered!

Sounds like a great idea but I hope it lasts longer than the Webster Studio theater, which was great and lasted for about a month:

At first I read it as "Batman Theater". Great idea--good luck!

This is great. I would love to take part in the "open mic night for filmmakers" as a viewer, that sounds like a fun night. Sometimes it's hard to find people that want to critique your work. Central VA is rich in filmmakers. I can see this being a big success. Congrats, C-villians!

Truly a great addition to the Arts community here in Cvlle!!! Very Exciting!!!

Love the idea! Good luck to you!

This is exciting and I'm looking forward to going! Congrats Jason!