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Behind the scenes: How Bellingham film fans enjoy cinema

With streaming at its height, movie lovers seek out new methods of acquiring and experiencing film

Four DVDs available for checkout from Wilson Library, on May 16, 2024, at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash. The library contains a variety of films organized in alphabetical order. // Photo by Adam Rideout Redeker

Film distribution across streaming platforms has become widely dispersed in recent years. Having more sites with exclusive film rights means the cost of obtaining specific films to watch is rising. 

For cinephiles in general, this has complicated the film acquisition process and is leading college film lovers to different outlets for their movie needs. 

Muymuy ‘Albert’ Gregorio, student and Vice President of Western Washington University’s Film Production Club, is an avid film fan with an affinity for Filipino cinema. In addition to frequenting local theaters like the Pickford Film Center, Gregorio advocates for the use of Solidarity Cinema, a free online film archive that highlights films containing themes of solidarity and struggle. 

Gregorio’s interest in film as an educational tool has led them to prioritize the accessibility of film through services like Solidarity Cinema. 

“At the end of the day, the beauty of film is you go back to square one. You go back to whatever day job you have, or home and the people around you,” Gregorio said. “When it comes to distribution, I’m for the democratization of media, and especially film.”

In addition to alternative streaming methods, representatives from Bellingham’s Pickford Film Center are finding that students’ interest in film is sending them to the theater. It stands to reason that some things are better experienced live in an audience, including films. A short walk from north campus lands Western students downtown, in range of the Pickford Film Center. 

Discounted tickets and free popcorn are available to students on Wednesdays at the Pickford, and discounted memberships are also offered. Alongside these deals, Pickford staff members Lesley Schroeder and Melissa Tamminga noted a rising interest in the theater’s indie, arthouse and classic movies among young moviegoers.

“It is interesting that these films you can readily see on streaming, people are coming out for,” Tamminga said, “and we’re seeing younger audiences.”

After local video store Film Is Truth shut down in 2022, their video collection was gifted to the Pickford, which is now planning on renting out the collection of an estimated 20,000 videos to its patrons. 


The Pickford Film Center on May 16, 2024, in Bellingham, Wash. The independent theater has screened various unique films and series for over 25 years. // Photo by Adam Rideout Redeker

“We have this idea that everything’s on streaming now–everything isn’t on streaming, so we will be the place that you can come and find some obscure little film,” Tamminga said.

Pickford staff members are still working out the best way to make the film collection available to the public. Lesley Schroeder touched on how film lovers are feeding the return of the DVD.

“Physical media is making a comeback,” Schroeder said. “People want to hang on to their content. For a while with streaming, they thought it would all be available in a few different places forever and that’s not the case.”

Jeff Purdue, the media librarian for Western’s Wilson Library, has collected an array of DVDs available to check out on the third floor of the library.

“People mostly want streaming now because it’s so much easier,” Purdue said. “The problem for us in the library is streaming films are a lot more expensive. A feature film, we can usually buy for 20 or 30 dollars on DVD and that’s that. But streaming films are a couple hundred dollars or more for a limited time.” 

Purdue also curates the Pickford’s Cinema East series: a recurring seasonal film production that brings an array of films from Asian countries to the silver screen.

The DVDs primarily service Western classes, but anyone with access to the library can check them out. 

Adam Rideout Redeker

Adam Rideout Redeker is a campus life reporter for the Front. He is a third-year student studying visual journalism and Spanish. In his free time, Adam enjoys listening to music, spending time outdoors and hosting a weekly radio show on KUGS. Adam can be reached at

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