COLUMBIA — Right now, the future home of Ragtag Cinema, Uprise Bakery and 9th St. Video looks like an unfinished basement: largely wires, pipes and drywall.
But the dream is taking shape.
When the building at 10 Hitt St. is done, its face will have two doorways — on the right, one framed in brick and, on the left, one cut from an enormous glass window. The doorway on the right will lead into 9th St. Video, the one on the left into the cafe and bar of Uprise Bakery.
The theater box office will be inside, in the heart of a brick building constructed in the early 1930s as a Coca-Cola Bottling Plant and later home to Kelly Press. Like the current Ragtag, a smaller theater will hold about 75 people; a larger theater will seat about 150.
Columbia-area artists and craftsmen are making pieces including tables, window coverings and glass sconces to decorate the new trifecta of home-grown businesses. Lee Elementary School is donating a screen-printed clay mural depicting the history of movies in Columbia for the outside wall of the larger theater.
The Ragtag was started as a film series in 1998 by David Wilson and Paul Sturtz, and the cinemacafe opened in 2000. Since the beginning, they have considered Uprise Bakery a “sister business,” because the owners of Uprise helped open the Ragtag and Uprise food is served now at the theater; the eventual goal was always to one day share a location. 9th St. Video, which Wilson calls a “long-time companion” to the Ragtag, was a natural addition.
“This is the dream,” Wilson said.
The opening in late February will be in time with the 2008 True/False Documentary Film Festival, which Wilson and Sturtz organize.
The overall cost of the project is just under $2 million. The Ragtag, a nonprofit, is undertaking a capital campaign to cover costs, which include 35mm and digital projectors for both theaters. Donations can be made in person at the current location at 23 N. Tenth St. or online at ragtagfilm.com.
While the smaller of the two theaters will be primarily outfitted with the famously broken-in seating from the current theater, the especially decrepit couches and chairs will be replaced. In the larger theater, eight to 10 rows of vintage theater seats, possibly with tray tables, will take up the back half, leaving a level space in front of the screen to be filled by more of the kind of couches that are synonymous with the Ragtag.
The word “spacious” applies not just to the theaters but to the building as a whole. There will be a patio and an open seating area for the cafe, as well as a tiny “pocket park” in front of the larger theater.
Wilson hopes the breathing room will foster conversation. “Movies are a great way to get people together,” he said. For him, the entire project of the Ragtag was always more about building community than anything else.
“I really think it has the potential to be a cultural hub,” Wilson said.