Red River Theatres is the third of SMP's arts and culture projects on the southern end of Concord. This three-screen, non-profit art cinema was the pet project of film buffs in the city for quite a few years. The film group wanted a downtown movie house with comfortable seats where patrons could relax and enjoy an atmosphere that was the complete opposite of mainstream theaters. After a long series of setbacks, local cinema impresario Barry Steelman gave the project the name "Red River" after the John Wayne movie about bringing the cattle to market against impossible odds.


SMP was called in to assess the viability of a two-story space—with the two stories below street level. Our first concern was claustrophobia. How could we get our movie patrons to forget they were 20 feet under ground? The layout was easy enough: back-to-back cinemas with a joint projection room would help overcome limited staffing. Then we proposed filling these halls from the top to minimize the spelunking aspect of the experience. Finally, a bright and airy lobby and innovative lighting would complete the slight-of-hand. Additionally, a suspended, triple layer of drywall ceiling on spring mounts helped isolate movie audio from the restaurant above—and the sound of dropped dishes from the theatres below.


The biggest success in terms of the visitor's experience was our use of a long, curving, retractable wall that allowed the theatre lobby to increase in size during operating hours. This solution doubled the apparent size of the lobby and removed any sense of being confined belowdecks. The visual theme of curves, circles, and saturated colors was derived from a dynamic painting—"Hommage à Blériot," by Robert Delaunay, which celebrated the first flight across the English Channel. It also invoked imagery of film reels and the sprockets of the projection system without being too literal. Red River Theatres has become a hugely popular Concord institution—and one with whom SMP is proud to be associated.