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Soldiers and community members stationed at Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy, will spend about half of 2003 without a base theater.

Soldiers and community members stationed at Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy, will spend about half of 2003 without a base theater. (Kent Harris / S&S)

VICENZA, Italy — Friday and Saturday nights are not quite the same at Caserma Ederle these days.

The base movie theater is closed for renovations until early summer, forcing community members to look elsewhere for their entertainment.

Unlike in Germany, where there are a handful of bases nearby for most people to travel to see American films in English, Vicenza is pretty isolated. The nearest American facility with a theater is Aviano Air Base, about a 90-minute drive away, through sometimes miserable traffic snarls around Venice. The nearest Army base is Camp Darby, about twice that distance.

But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do.

“We rent a lot of movies now,” said Steven Guyne, a senior at the high school who says he’d routinely watch a movie at the theater at least once a week.

The trip to Aviano is kind of far, he said.

“If we go to a movie, we just go to Warner Village (in the city) when they’re showing English-language movies or just hang out downtown.”

The city has a few theaters that offer limited showings of American movies in the original language — though the films are often at least a few months old. And the they’re generally shown only on a single weeknight.

Sgt. Frank Guy, a newcomer to Vicenza, said he hasn’t been to Aviano yet. But he “might go” if there’s a movie showing there that he really wants to see. He said one option he’s taken is buying a DVD or video of something he hasn’t seen at the base exchange.

Others report forming groups to swap DVDs. Several have gone to Aviano to watch the premieres of big movies, such as “The Two Towers,” the second part of “The Lord of the Rings.” The base newspaper, the Outlook, replaced the movie listings for Vicenza with those for Aviano during the period the theater is closed.

Cindy Brown, the manager of the base’s shoppette, said rentals have increased since the theater closed in January.

“We’re seeing a lot more of the new releases going out,” she said. Of course, many times those new releases are several months behind the new films that are shown at the theater.

Brown said the store knew the theater was going to be closed for several months, and compensated by getting more copies of titles it thought might be popular.

Phil Holifield, the general manager for Army and Air Force Exchange Service outlets in Italy, said the movie theater was closed because it simply needs repairs. It is scheduled to reopen in early June, although it could be later.

“It’s been a long time since work was done” inside the theater, Holifield said.

When it reopens, it will feature new seating, a revamped lobby area and several other features that bring it more in line with theaters in the States.

“We’re all excited about it,” he said.

Even better news for those stationed at Vicenza? Unlike theaters in the States that undergo renovations, AAFES doesn’t expect to charge higher admission prices when the stars light up the big screen again.

author picture
Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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