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Madison’s Sundance theater gets a new name

The not-really art-house cinema is now the AMC Dine-In Madison 6. | By Scott Gordon

After 10 years, Madison can stop pretending that the movie theater at Hilldale Mall is an art-house cinema. Sundance Cinemas 608, which opened in spring 2007, has been officially re-named the AMC Dine-In Madison 6. The website says the kitchen is closed for remodeling, so the “Dine-In” part is on hold. The theater will also join the dozens of AMC locations that have something called MacGuffins Bar because film references LOL.

AMC Theatres acquired the theater last year as part of its purchase of Carmike Cinemas, creating the world’s largest theater chain.

The small Sundance chain, of which Madison’s location was the first, was initially sold as an extension of Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Institute — entities synonymous with nurturing independent film. But even with Redford as part owner, the theater chain was mostly just a group of investors selling the Sundance name, and it showed in the film lineups. The calendar at Sundance tended to foreground the same big movies you could catch at any other mainstream first-run theater, and independent films were a presence but never felt like the main emphasis. The name change just lets the place be what it’s always been: A pretty straightforward movie theater with a bit of adventurous programming, comfy seats, and food and drink beyond the usual snack-counter fare.

If it wasn’t ever quite an indie-film mecca, though, Sundance still had an important role in the local film community. As a Wisconsin Film Festival venue the past few years, Sundance has helped the festival screen more new films in digital format. Capital Times critic Rob Thomas has hosted a popular series of post-screening talks there. And in a city that lacks a centrally located first-run movie theater, it’s been the best default place to go for people who rely on buses and/or don’t want to schlep all the way out to the far west side or Sun Prairie.

Over the years there were signs that things at Sundance 608 were a little off, like the wonderfully tacky pre-screening slides, strangely managed social-media presence, and over-the-top defensiveness about fried food. It’s been a mixed bag, Sundance, but we’ll miss you all the same. Oh, and please unblock us on Twitter now.

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