The indie and art house film business in Charleston has rarely been a sure path to riches, but nobody’s been in it longer than Marcie Marzluff, who 10 years ago built The Terrace Theater on James Island after spending time as owners of the Roxy at 245 East Bay St. (where Earthling Day Spa is now) and has owned and managed the iconic, indie-minded cinema ever since. In that time, she’s introduced Charlestonians to hundreds of the kind of films they’d likely never otherwise have heard of, much less have seen at a local cineplex. From Fahrenheit 9/11 to Brokeback Mountain; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to The Blair Witch Project and scores more, Marzluff’s theatre has often been the only place in town where locals can catch the non-studio films that have gone on to redefine genres, create celebrities, and win Oscars.
On Thursday, July 27, however, the reel finally runs out for Marzluff, when she closes on the sale of The Terrace to New York businessman and former theatre manager Michael Furlinger.
Furlinger has plenty of experience in the business, though none as an owner. “He started in New York as an usher, and he became an interim manager for theatres” before working his way to Manhattan and Brooklyn district manager for Cineplex Odeon. Then 17 years ago, he walked away from the movie business to open a chain of gourmet candy stores in New York. About a five years ago, Furlinger decided he wanted back in, and he began searching for a small, locally-owned cinema to buy. He discovered Marzluff’s year-old listing for The Terrace, and his search was over. “He said he’s tired of counting candy boxes,” Marzluff says. “It’s always been his dream to own a movie theatre.”
Marzluff knows the feeling well; The Terrace was her own longtime dream. But after a decade of working with her New York film buyer Jeffrey Jacobs to program the best in new indie releases, dealing with cynical distributors who won’t commit to release a film in a market this size until the last minute, and watching the characters in the films she screens have all the fun, she’s decided it’s her turn.
“I’ve had The Terrace for 10 years now. I’m ready to retire,” Marzluff sighs. “I want to travel. It’s difficult to get away for any amount of time while I’m running the theatre. I don’t have an assistant; I’m the manager and the owner. I’m tied to the telephone.”
Marzluff and Furlinger both say not much will change about The Terrace under the new ownership — although patrons can look forward to new, more comfy chairs. If only the same could be said of the Dock Street.