South Street Theater welcomed homeless people for an overnight movie marathon


As Philadelphians endure another freezing cold spell, the city announced a Code Blue for the city’s homeless population, sending workers across the city to contact those in need and adding an additional 100 beds to the city ​​shelters.

Bill Arrowood, who runs South Street Cinema, took a different approach to keeping people warm in the face of a recent winter blast. He ran his theater through the night for nine days as a refuge for people he knew wouldn’t go to a shelter.

“It’s one of those things where you realize that when you go out and call for something that you’re trying to do that’s positive, you realize how deep the need is and how willing people are to travel.” just for a place that’s safe and warm, ”said Arrowood, whose pay what you want theater offers free popcorn.

After the idea made headlines and the offer spread on social media, Arrowood said a wave of people responded.

“A lot of people were like, ‘Oh, this is a warming station’ or ‘Oh, this is a homeless shelter. No, we’re just a movie theater. We just chose to stay open late.

After its owner expressed concerns about insurance liability – and Arrowood’s own exhaustion – the classic movie marathon ended last week.

“We knew from the start that a guy in a movie theater alone wasn’t going to be there every night for the rest of the winter,” he said.

But the sense of community he felt during the initiative has remained.

“Those nine nights that we were open, especially the last very cold nights, to be able to provide a haven of peace and frankly an evening of fun… it was a very positive experience.

From 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., Arrowood went to silent movies in the last hours. The audience was thrilled, he said.

“Movies like Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Little Tramp’ have a lot of themes that still resonate today, unfortunately,” he said.

He said his hospitality was a small way to help meet the continuing needs of America’s poorest big city.

“Anyone can do something,” said Arrowood. “Every day you can do something to remind the city that you are here and that you are doing good. And even if it only lasts a day, it is something you can do on that day.

“I really believe that taking care of our neighbors inside and out, as people, and treating them like that, is how we’re going to improve our city.”

The city’s code blue will remain in effect until this weekend. If you see someone in need of shelter, call the Philadelphia Homelessness Office hotline 215-232-1984.

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