Photo by Ann McCreary
Comfortable seating is part of the experience at The Barnyard Cinema.

The Barnyard Cinema aims to offer a classic movie-going experience

By Ann McCreary

The ambiance of The Barnyard Cinema is reminiscent of elegant movie houses that thrived during the glamour days of Hollywood, and that will be a big part its attraction, the theater owners hope.

Despite a barn-like exterior and name that implies rustic simplicity, The Barnyard Cinema’s interior is decorated with original art, art deco design elements, blue velvet curtains, a pressed-tin ceiling, vintage lights, a chandelier, and distinctive plush movie theater carpeting.

“The spirit is an old-world movie theater. Theaters were more elegant then. There was a glamour to it,” said Genevieve Cole, a partner in the new cinema.

In true cinematic fashion, the Barnyard offers a selection of treats to snack on during the movies.

The Barnyard Cinema, located on Highway 20 on the south end of Winthrop, opens to the public on Thursday (Aug. 31). It offers Methow Valley residents and visitors a new, yet old, experience — going out to the movies.

In these days when people can watch movies in their living room, on their computer or even on their smart phones, the creators of The Barnyard Cinema are providing an alternative — a stylish, comfortable space where people can come together to share the experience of watching films.

“You have to bring that back a little bit if you want people to leave their homes. You’ve got to offer something different,” Cole said in an interview last week as the final touches to the theater were being completed.

Watching a movie in a theater with other viewers is a much different experience than viewing it privately. The Barnyard Cinema seeks to counteract the isolation brought about by technology and sustain movies as the shared event that they used to be, Cole said. “People are wanting these institutions not to disappear. It’s a cultural experience,” she said.

As part of the movie-going experience, The Barnyard Cinema includes a concessions counter with traditional movie fare — candy, hot dogs, drinks and popcorn with a variety of seasonings.

The cinema will also sell wine and beer at a bar with a shiny zinc countertop, offering six beers including one local brew from Old Schoolhouse Brewery, and four wines, including two local Lost River Winery choices. The theater will also offer Blue Star coffee.

Flexible space

A beverage bar that serves wine, beer and coffee drinks will help viewers enjoy their experience.

The lobby includes several small tables with chairs and bench seating, and a shaded outdoor deck with custom-made Adirondack chairs where customers can take food and beverages.

The screening room, where movies are shown, seats 78 people. It includes comfortable chairs, including some recliners, on a center floor, as well as tiers of traditional fixed seats at the back of the room and balcony seating. The chairs on the floor can be removed for other events, increasing the room’s capacity to 300 people.

The seats face a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that frame a dramatic mountain view. When it’s movie time, blue velvet curtains slide across the windows and a large screen descends slowly from the ceiling. “Isn’t it dramatic?” Cole asked as she brought the screen down.

While film is the primary focus of Barnyard Cinema, the facility will also host other events, such as live music and lectures.

Cole, who is in charge of lining up movies and programs, said she want to tap into the ability to stream arts, sports and current events. Picture sitting in the theater and watching a recent performance of the Bolshoi Ballet while sipping a glass of champagne, for example, Cole said.

“That’s how small theaters are staying alive today — through varied programming,” she said. “I would have killed to have been open for the presidential debates last year.”

Cole also wants to offer educational programming in collaboration with local schools. “I want to support what they’re teaching through film.” That could include showing film versions of books that students are reading, or presenting movies and documentaries related to subjects that are being studied.

In choosing what movies to offer the community, Cole said her goal is to select films representing six genres — classic, documentaries, foreign, cult, family and new releases. She wants to bring films that appeal to different tastes, but draws the line at some movies. “I am not going to play ‘The Emoji Movie’ no matter what,” she said.

Filling the void

The facility includes a few games for the young, and young at heart, to entertain themselves with as they await the start of the performance.

The Barnyard Cinema was inspired by a longing for movies that persisted after Cole and her husband, Steve, moved to the Methow Valley from Seattle five years ago. The Coles, who live in Mazama with their three daughters, loved going to movies and found it hard to shake that part of their former urban life. So they decided to fill the void by building their own theater.

They partnered on the project with two other Mazama couples, Robert and Sally Gatlin and Kirk and Jennifer Schumacher, arranging financing with a Wenatchee bank through the Small Business Administration. Construction by Blackcap Builders Collective began a little over a year ago.

“We all stuck it out. We continued to buy into the idea. I can’t believe this is happening,” Cole said.

The Barnyard Cinema has a membership program for individuals, couples and families at different membership levels that offer benefits including reduced or free tickets, free popcorn and admission to an Academy Awards party. Cole said 40 people have become members.

The Barnyard Cinema will offer movies throughout Labor Day weekend grand opening, including Monday. For the cinema’s first night on Thursday, Cole has chosen a film that is centered on a movie theater. “Cinema Paradiso” is a 1988 Italian film about a filmmaker who recalls his childhood, when he fell in love with the movies at his village’s theater. “It’s a film everybody can watch. It just resonates with me on so many levels,” Cole said.

Ticket prices at The Barnyard Cinema are $12 for adults and $10 for youths 16 and under. For information about upcoming movies and show times, visit the website at or call 996-3222.

The Barnyard Cinema hosts its grand opening beginning Thursday (Aug. 31) and continuing through Labor Day weekend. The lineup includes:

• “Cinema Paradiso,” Thursday, 5 and 8 p.m.

• “Beatriz at Dinner,” Friday, 9 p.m.; Saturday, 5 and 10 p.m.; Sunday, 8 p.m.; Monday, 5 p.m.

• “Step,” Friday, 4 p.m.; Saturday, 3 p.m.; Sunday, noon; Monday, 3 p.m.

• “Unforgiven,” Friday, 6 p.m.; Saturday, 7:15 p.m.; Sunday, 6 p.m.; Monday, noon

• “Spirited Away,” Saturday, noon; Sunday, 2 p.m.