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Meetup goes to the movies

By Meredith Goldstein, Globe Staff | March 21, 2007

There were a handful of people sitting solo at the Kendall Square Cinema while they watched "The Lives of Others" on a recent Sunday, but in reality, those movie buffs weren't alone.

They just hadn't met each other yet.

As soon as the credits began to roll, they walked to the front of the theater to find Tom Green, the founder of the Boston International/Art House Movie Meetup Group. Once the theater lights were up, Green and his followers walked over to Tommy Doyle's Irish Pub to talk about the German movie, which won this year's best foreign film Oscar.

Most loved the film, which tells the story of a Stasi officer monitoring the life of a German playwright and his actress girlfriend in the mid-1980s. Some members compared its themes to the Patriot Act. Others talked about the love story.

At my end of the table, we discussed the power of art, what it takes to change someone's ideology, and whether "The Lives of Others" is an upper or a downer.

"Are you depressed?" Ron Marr of Smithfield, R.I., asked me, with some sarcasm. "I'm depressed."

I told him I thought the film was uplifting, that it shows people transcending politics and embracing humanity. I left the movie feeling good.

"I hadn't thought of that," said Marr, looking a bit more upbeat.

Back Bay resident Marianne Macdonald listened intently while picking at fries belonging to Walter Pratt, a film buff who had taken the commuter rail in from Abbington to join the group. The two had just met.

This is why Green started the club in August: so that film fans like Marr, Macdonald, and Pratt, could find one another, watch a film, and debate. Some members of the group are new to town and looking for friends. Others are simply looking for cinema chatter.

Here's how it works: Green and his assistants post specific showings of art-house and foreign films playing at venues around the city at movies.meetup.com/351 . Past screenings have included "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, the "Mirrorball" music-video series at the Museum of Fine Arts, and Buster Keaton's "The General" at the Institute of Contemporary Art.

Members of Meetup.com (it's free to register) RSVP for events. Based on the number of people who sign up, Green reserves a table or tables at a restaurant near the theater. Group members find one another by gathering by the movie screen after the film. There are no official rules for the discussion; it's simply an informal roundtable talk where members chat and eat.

The club has become one of the most popular local groups on the social networking site Meetup.com, which connects people, from foodies to sports fans, based on their tastes. Green's club hosts a few events every weekend and draws up to 20 people per outing. Members can see each other online, post a picture, and leave comments for the group.

The group that came to see the Academy Award-winning "Lives of Others" filled up three tables at Tommy Doyle's. Some of the lesser-known art house flicks attract a smaller group, which isn't a bad thing. Green is doing his best to limit each event to about 15 people so that they can hear one another. As the group expands, he'll simply host more events.

"We have a good core group of people, and we all learn more about the film from the conversations afterward than you can read in the reviews," Green says. "I can read eight different reviews, but I get more from the interaction."

Meredith Goldstein's column on going out runs on Wednesdays. She can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.com.

This weekend's Boston International/Art House Movie MeetUp Group events include:

The Boston Underground Film Festival screening of the documentary "Urban Explorers: Into the Darkness" at the Brattle Theatre at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday.

"The Rules of the Game" at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Sign up to join the group's post-film discussion at movies.meetup.com/351.

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