WATERVILLE — Railroad Square Cinema, an independent movie theater run under the Maine Film Center, will celebrate its 40th anniversary Friday with the screening of a short documentary about its history. 

“Railroad Square Cinema: For the Love of Film” is a 30-minute documentary by Portland filmmakers Michael McDade and Laura Ozmet-Schenck that follows the theater’s history from its founding in 1978 to the present day and an impending move to downtown Waterville. 

“It’s really an iconic art house movie theater,” said McDade, who was inspired to make the film this spring to celebrate the theater’s anniversary. “The fact they’ve been able to hang in there 40 years and survive, even after their building burned down in 1994, it’s a pretty inspiring story.”

A rough cut of the documentary will screen at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Railroad Square Cinema, according to a news release from the theater. They’ll also be screening two films from the theater’s opening day in 1978. 

At 4 p.m. is “Seven Beauties,” an Italian film following a 1940s-era, small-time thug from the streets of Naples to a German concentration camp overseen by a female commander. 

“Casablanca,” the 1943 masterpiece starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, will be shown at 7:30 p.m.

Admission to the documentary is free. Following the screening, there will be a discussion with the five founders of Railroad Square Cinema — Ken Eisen, Alan Sanborn, Lea Girardin, Gail Chase and Stu Silverstein — all of whom are interviewed in the film. 

“The film is really based on the story of the founders,” McDade said. “It’s a great local story of people seeing a need and developing that type of business and being able to survive 40 years despite changes in how people consume media.”

Railroad Square started in 1978 and expanded in 1981. Fire destroyed the cinema on the night of Oct. 10, 1994. Colby College lent the founders office space on its campus as they worked to rebuild immediately. The theater reopened in July 1995, the release said. 

In July 1998, the cinema hosted the first Maine International Film Festival, which has continued as an annual showcasing of the best of American independent and international cinema and classic revivals. 

The cinema was bought in 2012 by the nonprofit Maine Film Center, a partnership that has enabled the installation of new digital projectors and allowed the cinema to apply for grants and expand its programming. 

Recently, the film center announced plans to merge formally with partners — the Waterville Opera House and Waterville Creates! — as they anticipate the redevelopment of The Center building at 93 Main St. into a downtown center for the arts. 

Railroad Square Cinema is planning to move from Railroad Square into the new site, where it will have the benefit of additional classroom space for editing, filmmaking and film appreciation, the release said. 

Maine International Film Festival programmer Ken Eisen holds a portrait of himself and Jonathan Demme in his office on Main Street in Waterville in June 2017. Demme was honored at the 20th annual Maine International Film Festival in July 2017. (Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file photo)

Railroad Square Cinema was created in 1978 by, from left, Alan Sanborn, Gail Chase, Ken Eisen, Lea Girardin and Stu Silverstein, pictured here in 1981. (Contributed photo)

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