Locals Prepare to Bid Farewell to Village 8 Theaters
Writer / Carrie Vittitoe
The Village 8 in St. Matthews may not have had the style of the Brown Theater or the Palace, two other historic film venues in town, but for many Louisville residents, it was the source of many warm memories. People who began seeing movies there as children when it opened in 1975 brought their own children and grandchildren to experience the joy of discount films.
Matt Kohorst started with Village 8 well over a decade ago as an assistant manager. While he loves movies, it wasn’t a film that brought him to the theater, but rather a desire to gain some management experience. Eventually he was promoted to general manager and is now seeing Village 8 off as the staff prepares to screen its last movies in early July.
Up to a few years ago, movies were shown by way of film projector equipment, which allowed projectionists to thread reels of 35-millimeter film onto a projector to display movie images onto a huge screen. When Kohorst first began working at Village 8, the company was still using 35-millimeter film, but gradually phased it out in 2014 and 2015. The projectors were converted entirely to digital, and there weren’t projectionists on staff after that, which meant Managers had to be comfortable with the digital projection equipment.
Kohorst says when films arrived at Village 8 after 2015, they were on hard drives. One of his responsibilities was to get the movies ready to show, which includes getting the server to ingest the digital film’s contents, getting the ads, trailers and ratings loaded, setting the cues for when the lights dim, and adjusting the volume levels. “If all goes right, the movies start on time,” he says.
Digital films are encrypted, which means Village 8 cannot play a film until a specific date and time determined by the movie distributor. Kohorst says the distributor sends a digital key, also known as a key delivery message, via email. Kohorst or one of his managers loads the key onto a USB drive and then plugs it into the projector. At this point the movie is unlocked and can be viewed by audiences.
When asked about the impacts of COVID-19, Kohorst says “2020 was an incredibly challenging year for us as a local business. Like most cities, Louisville had a period of time when the government forced a mandatory shutdown for all nonessential businesses. During this time we decided to run curbside concessions where folks could stop by and pick up popcorn, sodas and other snacks. We also at this time donated half of our entire perishable inventory to the Ronald McDonald House. The theater was able to reopen around midsummer, but with limited capacity and studios pushing popular releases back. ”
Continuity is something Village 8 also has always had in terms of its clientele. “We have regulars who have been coming here since the 1980s, ”says Kohorst. “Not many places can boast that. Patrons come in all the time saying, ‘This was the first place I ever saw a movie, ” This was the first job I ever had, ‘or,’ I had my first date here at Village so many years ago. ‘ It holds a warm nostalgia for many Louisvillians, and that’s something we hold dearly. ”
“Managing at Village 8 has been an absolute pleasure, ”he continues. “We managed to operate and successfully maintain one of the last second-run theaters in our zone district. Despite the rise of streaming services and shortened second-run playing windows, we were extremely busy up until the sale of the Village shopping center. Now that it is official that we are closing, our regular customers have been sharing stories. For many of them, this was the theater they came to when they were growing up. For me, I will always think of it as my home away from home. I have nothing but pleasant memories from this place, and being a job that’s all someone could ask for. ”