The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

A defense of the Belcourt Theatre

It’s time students utilize our local theater to gain a sense of Nashville’s community and culture.
Payton Ohler
Belcourt theater on a cold afternoon, as captured on Jan. 20, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Payton Ohler)

As a dorm room activity, watching a movie is an overrated proposal. Should you watch it on a desk or in bed? If it’s in bed with someone else, where should you place the laptop? What should you do when your lap gets uncomfortable or when you get the itch to check Instagram? Given these challenges, it’s no wonder that many would-be movie-watchers instead choose other modes of dorm-room entertainment.

Enter the Belcourt Theatre, a small, non-profit arthouse theater in Hillsboro Village, just blocks away from Commons. For $13.50, patrons can feast their eyes on their choice of a selection of new indies, foreign films and classics curated by people who genuinely love movies. Some early screenings have in-person introductions from journalists, critics and artists, with occasional high-profile guests like musician Jack White. The theater’s wide variety in genres and eras, as well as its specialty film lineups, accommodate both cinephiles and those who just want to see the latest Oscar-winning film. This February, the Belcourt Theatre will be screening a collection titled “Swoon: A Love Series,” showcasing everything from “The Notebook” to “Black Orpheus.” 

Ask around, and you might find some Belcourt Theatre frequenters on Vanderbilt’s campus. 

“I go there for the same reason I go to a meditation center or a CrossFit or hot yoga class — to have a communal experience without necessarily even having to talk to anybody,” Justin Quarry, principal senior lecturer in English said. 

The intimacy of the arthouse cinema, as well as the enthusiastic staff and tasty snacks, keeps students like junior Evan Kerr coming back, too. The community seems to be the ultimate draw for Belcourt Theatre patrons, whether it is in the friends you bring, the staff you meet or the employees who curate the weekly showings. Kerr described why going to arthouse theaters is important to him.

Making a conscious effort to define our own taste can often be a first step toward considering our relation to the world around us,” Kerr said.

Streaming films, while convenient, doesn’t just worsen the audiovisual experience of movies, but also flattens our ability to find new things beyond the whims of a recommendation algorithm. The Belcourt Theatre provides the rare opportunity to be challenged by the media presented to us and gain a sense of the cultural tastes of the city.

Despite everything that the Belcourt Theatre offers, it seems many students aren’t aware of its existence, as it is tucked away between the shops and restaurants of Hillsboro. 

“I’ve been less inclined to go [to the Belcourt Theatre] since they removed their student discount,” senior Paige Elliott said. 

Other than cost, some students may be less enthused about the theater’s often niche film lineup. In addition, it seems people are less compelled to go to the movies at all. Minus the occasional blockbuster hit, moviegoing has taken a hit from streaming services and the pandemic. 

However, we think students should give the Belcourt Theatre a try for a few reasons. 

First, the Belcourt Theatre is a respite from the pace and expectations within the Vanderbilt bubble. As the lights dim and you tuck away your phone, you forget your impending deadlines and transport to the zany high school of “Bottoms” or the melancholic cityscape of “All of Us Strangers.”

Second, one need not be a cinephile to enjoy the Belcourt Theatre. Its proximity to Taste of Nashville restaurants makes going to the movies a cost-effective way to go on a date or spend a few hours with friends.

Finally, and most importantly, the Belcourt Theatre offers a shared experience like no other. What it lacks in Netflix subtitles, the Belcourt Theatre makes up for in the giggles and gasps of your theater-mates. If you’re there on a first date, you’re no longer tormented by small talk. You can learn what makes them laugh, what makes them scared and what holds their attention. Temporarily confined to still darkness, there’s no need to be anyone but yourself. You’re no longer alone on the island of your room but instead connected to fellow patrons and the movies themselves in a historic, red-curtained theater.

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About the Contributors
Muthoni Kamau
Muthoni Kamau, Staff Writer
Muthoni Kamau ('24) is from Dallas, and is majoring in history and minoring in political science and sociology in the College of Arts and Science. When not writing for The Hustler, Muthoni enjoys walking around Nashville, finding new albums and reading. They can be reached at [email protected].
Payton Ohler
Payton Ohler, Staff Photographer
Payton Ohler (‘27) is majoring in civil engineering in the College of Engineering. Beyond academics, she is involved in SPEAR, Gen Action and Run Club, and loves coffee. She can be reached at [email protected].
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