Very few movie theaters let you sip on a bottle of Möet Chandon champagne from the concession stand while watching a Russian art house film. Thanks to Michael Furlinger, Charleston's own Terrace Theatre is now one of those few. The Terrace's new owner is a veteran of the movie theatre business who hails from Long Island, and he is as in love with "the movies" as any owner of an art house theatre should be. "I've always wanted my own movie theatre, since I was a kid," Furlinger says.
He began his movie career with Odeon Cineplex, managing the mainstream chain's Manhattan and Brooklyn theatres. He moved from movies into the gourmet food market, but always dreamed of owning his own theatre. Several years ago, Furlinger started looking for the right one to buy and happened upon The Terrace online. When he walked into the old-fashioned, twinkle-lit hallway, he knew he'd found the one.
As the Möet Chandon charmingly illustrates, Furlinger has already, in the month of his ownership, made a few changes to the theatre's operations. "Most are to the physical structure; we're getting new carpet and new sound now, and new seats in October," in addition to some incredibly comfy chairs in the lobby. As for the films, the Terrace will continue to be the place to go for foreign, independent, and art house movies. If anything, some edgier picks might start showing up under Furlinger's direction. And he has no objection to the occasional mainstream film: "I like movies that have something to say. If they have something to say, whether or not I agree with it, I'll show 'em." Given this merit-based philosophy, it is not surprising that Furlinger takes requests: El Cantante, a film about salsa music legend Hector Lavoe, is showing this fall in response to recent community interest.
When he was a high school senior, Furlinger managed a single-screen movie theatre where, one night, his high school drama teacher came in to see Greystoke, Legend of Tarzan (yes, he remembers the film). She said to him, "Michael, you've found your niche." It appears she was right, and it's lucky for Charleston that she was. With this dedicated film lover and businessman at the helm, the Terrace Theatre is in for an excellent second run. — Elizabeth Pandolfini