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Summer movie series first step to opening post-COVID-19 microcinema

BEVO MILL – Keith Watson and Sarah Baraba were busy preparing for opening night  in a new bar-minicinema on Gravois Avenue when COVID-19 shut them down. Now they’re trying again, with plans to open to a socially distant crowd behind the Arkadin Cinema & Bar at 5228-30 Gravois. 

To keep everybody safe during the 8:30 p.m. outdoor opening show on July 1 and 2 of the cult classic “Wet Hot American Summer,” they’re asking one and all to bring  their own chairs and masks. The summer series, called  “Camp Arkadin,” will host screenings every other Wednesday this summer.

The couple bought the adjoining storefronts in October, around the time they got married. Then they started renovations preparing for their Akadin Cinema & Bar.

“The idea of a microcinema is you have a much smaller audience, a more intimate kind of setting,” said Baraba, a special education teacher who used to work for the Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis.

“We had lived in [Washington], D.C., for 5½ years. At that time, there was one that popped up there,” Watson said. A few are in other cities.

Watson, who works for a small financial firm, is a film critic for He said  the tiny movie house would offer a wide range of movies:, old ones, high brow, low brow.

They took the name “Arkadin” from a 1955 mystery/drama starring Orson Welles as Mr. Arkadin.

“We liked the name, and it had a bit of a mysteriousness that we liked,” Watson said. 

“And we’re also big fans of Orson Welles,” Baraba said.

“We’ll probably show more independent and art house films from smaller distributors,” Watson said.

Plans were to sell drinks and snacks in one of the storefronts and show movies in the adjoining storefront. They were preparing to renovate and then open in the spring, when COVID-19 intervened.

“I had just picked up our building permit probably about a week before the lockdown started,” Baraba said.

Doing renovations at that time meant taking out a loan when they wouldn’t have revenue to pay it back. So they held off on doing them until they could open again. Their chance came in a time of social distancing when they decided to offer summertime movies in their back lot.

The couple actually is opening the summer series under a partnership with the Heavy Anchor bar next door at 5226 Gravois. Heavy Anchor received  an outdoor permit to operate in the Arkandin back lot. They used that to open the summertime movie series. 

People will enter through the Heavy Anchor, where they also can buy their drinks and snacks. 

Outside, they’ll place their chairs or blankets six feet from the next patron and prepare to enjoy the movie. Tickets go on sale at 7:30 p.m., an hour  before the show.

After the July 1 movie, other showings will be “Do the Right Thing” on July 15; “Sleepaway Camp” on July 29; “Bad News Bears” on Aug. 12; and “Moonrise Kingdom” on Aug. 26. People can hear about secret screenings and other summer events @Arkadin on Twitter and @Arkandincinema on Instagram and Facebook. The website is

They can order tickets online to this summer’s shows at

I“’ve posted a lot of stuff online and on social media, and the response has been good,” Baraba said.

The goal remains regular movies inside, once COVID-19 is under control. The couple hopes to seat about 40 inside, compared with 25 in social distancing outside. 

The original plan was to offer two screenings on Friday and Saturday and a matinee or two on Sunday. The bar would be open the same time as the movies. 

While they would stay with their full-time jobs at the start, “The vision eventually is for one of us to eventually go full time,” Baraba said. 

If that happens, someone may tell a story about a couple who bought space for a mini movie house, only to find themselves stopped by a pandemic. They open slightly with summer flicks before they successfully open inside their microcinema.

It’s stuff for a movie, the kind they’d show at Akadin Cinema & Bar.

Jim Merkel Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit

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