Friday, October 10, 2003

Newcomer's latest idea for fun: Black Movie Lounge

Maggie Downs

There are the people who sit on the couch and grumble there's nothing to do in Cincinnati.

And then there are those who get up and do something about it.

Billye Hill is the latter.

What: October Black Movie Lounge
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Plush Lounge, above Carol's on Main, 825 Main St.
The movie: Cooley High, coming-of-age story of two 1964 Chicago high school seniors as they prepare for adulthood.
Cost: $10 for movie and The Vibe music and dance
Info: Web site.
The 28-year-old Crescent Springs woman moved to the area a few years ago from Nashville to work for Procter & Gamble. When the enthusiastic young professional found a lack of things to do for people like herself, she invented her own fun.

"I didn't want to complain. I wanted to do something," she said.

First she created, a Web site for the local African-American community.

"A lot of people thought there wasn't a lot for African-Americans to do in Cincinnati other than party," she said. "I knew that couldn't be true."

After three years of success with the site, Hill began throwing her own social events. Things like a modified speed-dating event. Or big dinners to introduce one group of friends to another.

And now, the Black Movie Lounge.

"I believe you have to speak to people where they are," Hill said. "I know there are other people like me - people who aren't club types, but still like to go out."

The movies are projected on a large screen at Plush, a posh but comfortable venue. For $10, attendees can watch the show from cafe tables and order dinner from Carol's on Main downstairs.

"What do you normally do on a Saturday night? Dinner and a movie," Hill said. "My thought was, 'Why not do them together?'"

Every month, the movie lounge features an African-American-oriented flick. Previous movies have been The Best Man and Love Jones. The October show is Cooley High, the story of two senior high school students in 1964 Chicago as they prepare for adulthood.

"Probably the biggest challenge is to find the right movie for the audience," Hill said. "There are too many good movies to choose from."

Afterward, The Vibe kicks in for an after-set. Conversational music - kind of a jazzy house feel - follows until midnight. From the witching hour on, the music transforms into more old-school hip-hop and R&B beats.

The Vibe started long before the Black Movie Lounge ever did. And it did well. But putting the two together brought in a bigger and more diverse crowd.

"We get a little bit of everyone now," said DJ James Wallace of Westwood. "The movie and the conversations that follow are a great segue into the actual Vibe."

Hill remembers sitting at a back table during the first Black Movie Lounge. The room was packed to capacity with all types of people. Couples. Singles. Businesspeople. Students. Mid-20s. Mid-30s. They were laughing, whispering and enjoying the movie.

Hill looked at that, and realized her brainchild was a success.

"I had this moment where I was like, 'Wow. This is working,'" she said with an excited laugh. "I gave the community something different - and most importantly, something fun."


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