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And . . . cut.

The Cable Car Cinema & Cafe, an independent movie house and gathering spot in Providence long known for its quirky ambiance, vintage posters, and fiercely loyal clientele, is closing its doors after 42 years of screenings.

Owners Emily Steffian and Daniel Kamil announced the news in a letter posted to their website addressed to "Friends, Fans and Long-Time Customers" of the South Main Street haunt, where moviegoers sat on couches and, in its heyday, were treated to a live rendition of "Teddy Bear's Picnic" from a local performer before the opening credits.

The final day to catch a movie, grab a coffee or adult beverage, and park yourself in a cozy seat is May 27.


"This news will no doubt leave many people stunned and distraught as this local institution known as 'the theater with the couches' has been a cultural anchor in Providence that has been recognized both locally and nationally for its unique character, historic significance, and continued commitment to excellence in film programming and exhibition," the husband-and-wife owners wrote.

They said they didn't make the decision lightly but struggled with "the changing nature of film exhibition" and arrangements with their landlord, the Rhode Island School of Design.

"For the past year, we have been negotiating with RISD . . . different scenarios to make it feasible for the Cable Car Cinema to continue in its current spot," they wrote. "Unfortunately, that has not worked out."

Jack Silva, vice president of campus services at RISD, said in a phone interview that the owners' 10-year lease expires in September, and they had two 5-year options to renew.

"We were hopeful they would renew that lease," Silva said, adding that the couple has been paying a "favorable market rate" for the area. He declined to be more specific.


"They've [been] a great partner to the community," Silva said. "The Cable Car has been a wonderful, longstanding part of it, and we're saddened that they're going to close."

For decades, the Cable Car attracted a mix of college students, Greater Providence natives, and workers at the downtown courthouse and businesses located within walking distance of the cafe.

Some came for the java. Some for the independent releases. And others for the impromptu salons that could stretch for hours while patrons discussed art, local politics, the Pats, and potholes. Movie posters of edgy new releases and genre-bending classics graced the walls.

As of this writing, a bright yellow poster for "Taxi Driver" was hanging in the bathroom, giving customers a glimpse of Robert De Niro's grinning, gun-toting Travis Bickle while they used the facilities.

"It was accessible," Kamil said of the cafe. "And I think many people felt that way and continue to feel that way. . . . Having a 42-year-old business becomes part of the fabric of the community."

Kamil, who bought the cinema with his wife in 2008, said the couple tried to come to an agreement with the art school before deciding about two weeks ago to close up shop.

"They would have been happy for us to continue in the status quo," Kamil said of RISD. "But we tried to buy the building, and they were thinking about their institutional needs 100 years out. We would argue that our mission aligned [with theirs], but unfortunately that, I guess, is not the case."


Silva, of RISD, said the school began working with Kamil and Steffian last fall after they expressed a desire for "ways to think about increasing their revenue model." One idea floated, Silva said, was adding a second story to the business, but ultimately "we decided it wasn't a good financial investment on either of our parts."

The school also explored using the Cable Car for academic programming Monday through Friday, when customer traffic is slower, and having the business remain open on the weekends, Silva said.

"We couldn't find a feasible way to do that that was in alignment" with the Cable Car "and our academic mission," Silva said, adding that RISD hopes the next tenant will continue operating the space as "the cultural amenity that it's been for many years."

In a follow-up statement, RISD said the owners notified the school of their decision to close on April 16, though the two sides had been "exploring partnership opportunities over the last year."

"We were saddened to hear Cable Car was planning to leave our community and, because we strive to support local cultural organizations, we asked if they would reconsider if we reduced their rent," the statement said. "Unfortunately, Cable Car declined our offer and informed us their decision to close was not based on finances."

But who knows? The Cable Car may someday have a redux.

In their letter to customers, Kamil and Steffian wrote that if the right opportunity arises, "the Cable Car Cinema may emerge in another locale and in another form." And they'll continue to run the Providence Art & Design Film Festival and other screenings at area venues through their nonprofit Providence Center for Media Culture.


"We live in Rhode Island, and we're going to continue to be here, and we would love to be able to potentially come out of this, like the phoenix," Kamil said. "You burn, and then you rise."

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.