Screen scene: Local film news

OUT OF THIS WORLD: The Asheville Popcorn Movie Group will see The Martian, starring Matt Damon, at the Carolina Cinemas Friday, Oct. 9. A discussion at a nearby restaurant follows the screening. Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

Twice a month, the Asheville Popcorn Movie Group gathers at a local theater to watch a new release and then discuss the film over a meal at a nearby restaurant. The group began in May 2009 as a way to have fun, discuss movies and meet new people.

“We have regular attendees that you get to know as friends,” says Maria W., the group organizer. “Members often feel the discussion is as fun as seeing the movie.”

Most attendees are from Asheville, but others travel from surrounding counties. Nearly all of them are also members of other Meetup groups and discovered the Popcorn Movie Group through a search on the social website.

To join, a person must first create a free Meetup profile. On the Movie Group page is a “Join Us” button to request membership, which brings up a short questionnaire and a prompt to read the group guidelines. Once the form is completed and submitted, Maria W. can approve the request.

Meetups are scheduled on Friday nights, late Saturday afternoons or midday Sundays to encourage maximum participation. The Carolina Cinemas, Regal Biltmore Grande and Carmike are the most frequented theaters due to ease of scheduling and parking, but meetups also occur at Beaucatcher and the Fine Arts Theatre. The group also has one to two potluck parties per year at a member’s home.

In choosing what to see, Maria W. listens to member requests and researches new releases. The group saw Black Mass at Carmike on Sept. 26 and will see the The Martian on Friday, Oct. 9, at the Carolina, tentatively at 7 p.m. Future titles of interest include Bridge of Spies, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

“I try to keep things varied from action, sci-fi, comedy, drama, love stories, etc.,” says Maria W. “We usually don’t see hardcore horror, but we did see Mad Max.”

Once the film concludes, the 12 members who’ve signed up for the post-film discussion are asked to save their comments until after the food order is placed at the restaurant. To best hear one another, they try to sit no more than six to eight people to a table, which occasionally necessitates multiple groups. Maria W. often starts the discussion, but all members share the floor and allow one another to speak, keeping the talk focused on the film. Afterward, there is often further discussion online so that those unable to attend — including some members who have moved away but wish to stay connected to the group — may chime in.

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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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