Assistant manager Chris Schuck leans over the refreshments counter at the York Square Cinemas at 1:00 p.m. Wednesday, eager to talk. The glass cube in front of him is full of unbought butter popcorn, and one gets the sense that he welcomes any distraction from the lack of customers.
Though it is a weekday matinee, for the past few years Saturday nights have been no different. Three customers, maybe four, show up for the late show.
For the last month, however, the lobby has been as full as it ever was of students who are making the spot their Saturday night ritual. Only now it’s music, not movies, that’s drawing the crowd. Weekly rock concerts, organized by David Longstreth ’05, have given students a new reason to go back to the York Square.
None of them are buying a ticket, but the management doesn’t seem to mind.
“It’s very lonely during the late shows,” Schuck said. “Even if it doesn’t sell more tickets, just having Yale students aware that the theater exists is important.”
The concerts have been Longstreth’s answer to a void he noticed at Yale — the lack of a forum for musicians to play each week.
“I started it when I realized that I wanted to play shows and I didn’t know anywhere on campus where people did that regularly,” he said.
Longstreth approached Peter Spodick, owner of the movie theater, who had been looking for a way to revitalize the cinema as a social center.
“Dave came by and asked if he could perform here, and this is something that Peter has talked about in the past,” Schuck said. “They ran some music venues in the ’80s, and he wanted to use this big space to be a social center, the way it used to be before business dropped off.”
The concerts started small, the first one attended by about 15 people. By the following week, however, attendance had exploded to 50.
By the third and fourth weeks, the concert was attracting performers from outside Yale, such as Landing from Middlebury, and Wildbone, made up of former Yale students.
Longstreth and fellow musician Sam Grossman ’03 have performed at every concert, with appearances by other Yalies, such as Eliot Rose ’03 and Dan Sobo ’03.
“It was a place where I knew every week I could see music,” Larkin Grimm ’04 said. “It’s sort of a community where people who are friends can get together.”
When asked about his musical career, Longstreth replied, “What’s a career? I just like to play music.”
But most of those in attendance have a high degree of respect for Longstreth and the other performers.
“A lot of these people are really serious about their music and want to eventually go on tour, so this gives them a chance to perform in front of a crowd,” Grimm said.
Others were more passionate about the experience.
“It’s an all-out aural orgy,” James Sumner ’03 said.
For the York Square Cinemas, the concerts have brought something the management hasn’t seen in a long time: people.
“Just the fact that people come here is great,” Schuck said. “Maybe they’ve never been here before. Maybe they didn’t even know it exists.”