• The Pipers Alley marquee in 2008

For several years before it finally closed down in 2011, the movie theater at Pipers Alley was likely the least respected in Chicago. The projection was frequently dim, the floors were sticky, many of the seats wobbled, and looking at the concession stand actually made you less hungry. It seemed to be managerial policy that the box office attendants wipe their noses before giving you change. The theater was, in short, a dive—but unlike the Logan Theater before it underwent its much-needed renovation, Pipers Alley charged multiplex prices for the compromised experience it offered. Yes, it still belonged to a chain, but most people I knew just assumed the powers that be at Loews had forgotten about it.

This derelict quality had its upsides, though. In its final years, the theater adopted an anything-goes attitude towards programming, booking movies that no other theater in Chicago would take. Their bargain hunting resulted in the Chicago runs of some interesting movies that fell in the interstices between mainstream cinema and art cinema: JCVD, Southland Tales, Abel Ferrara’s Chelsea on the Rocks, and a number of Bollywood comedies—orphan movies for an orphan theater.