Language in the Landscape

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This is a picture of the marquee of The Art Theater. The text in the picture says “Art” in red neon letters and in the marquee underneath it says “Blue Jasmine” and “The Room”. The Art is an independent, co-op theater located in downtown Champaign. Near the theater there is a gloomy little Thai restaurant and a Tattoo Parlor called “No Regrets Tattoos & Body Piercings”. The red neon “ART” sign is a permanent fixture at the theater, but the marquee changes every time there are new movies screening. The marquee is decorated by bright yellow lightbulbs which gives it a very vintage and nostalgic tone. Near the theater entrance they always have the posters of movies they are screening, as well.

The font of the text is sans serif, all-caps, and are very clear to read, which makes sense as it is trying to tell people without minimum distraction what movies are playing that evening. I like the impermanence of the marquee; every time one passes by it, they will easily be able to know what movies are playing, without having to enter the building. Furthermore, certain movies are put on longer than others, usually more popular movies by celebrated directors like Blue Jasmine directed by Woody Allen, which means that the text will be up on the marquee longer than other lesser-known independent movies. Also, there are texts that return over and over again to the Art – like the cult classic The Room, which the Art puts on for at least a week every year. I find this very fascinating, on how some movie titles are more ‘impermanent’ than others.

The words themselves inform the audience of what movies are playing, but they are also used to promote and sell the movies being screened at the theater. The words, and the fact that they are displayed in a theater marquee, reflect how these movies are a bit different from the mainstream blockbuster movies. They are independent, cult, art movies that may or may not be closer to what the old independent theaters pursued. I think for most people familiar with the Art or the downtown Champaign area, the Art’s marquee sign symbolizes a sense of independence that is beginning disappear at a fast rate in our contemporary society. Like I’ve said, every time I see the marquee I feel a sense of nostalgia – for me personally it’s a longing for my favourite theater in the whole universe, the Bytowne Cinema, an independent cinema in my hometown Ottawa. However, for many others who might be familiar with similar independent cinemas that disappeared over time, the Art’s marquee symbolizes something from their past that no longer exists. Or it may symbolize the power of collaboration and cooperation, as the Art is a co-op theater, which means that it is cooperatively owned. In fact, more than 1000 people proudly call themselves owners of this independent theater, which I think is amazing and something Champaign should be very proud of.

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