It was bound to happen sooner or later, and, in my mind, the reports that surfaced Friday that the Oak Street had in fact been sold came later than expected. The Oak Street has been limping along for more than two years with burst of renewed energy waining to near inactivity. Some might say that the Oak Street has been limping along for longer than two years, but it was the Great Jamie Hook Debacle of 2005 that seemed to push the Oak Street and Minnesota Film Arts into an irreparable financial state. A developer has reportedly put down earnest money for the building which will be sold at the conclusion of this year's Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival. The fate of the building is unclear, but you can bet your festival pass that no one has visions of keeping it a theater.
Everyone better get their hankies ready for an emotional MSPIFF full of speeches and tears. The Festival, originally scheduled for April 10 - 26, has been moved back a week to April 17 - May 3 with details trickling in on a new website. As sad as it is to see the Oak Street go and to see the Twin Cities lose yet another independent theater, I am going to stop short of jumping on the nostalgia bandwagon. It is time to move on. I have very fond memories of the Oak (most of them in the form of Hong Kong films presented by Asian Media Access), but I also have fond memories of seeing films in Nicholson Hall in the U Film Society days and seeing films in that Film in the Cities space in downtown St Paul. The Oak Street has had its day, and, at this point, I really wonder if it could be viable under any circumstance.
Hopefully if there is any energy that remains in the film community for the Oak Street, it can be guided to the few independent one-screen theaters that we still have and probably have no less of a struggle in keeping their doors open. To be more specific, The Parkway, The Riverview and The Heights.
(Moses is waiting for you at the Heights!)