Lebanon, PA at the Frank Banko Alehouse.

The tagline for this independent film is “Life Happens When You Least Expect It.” Which makes me wonder what is happening when we expect things.

The ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks is home to many creative spaces that provide music, art, and culture. One of those spaces is the Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas located on the first floor and features two theaters. The Red theater seats 200 people while the Blue theater seats 100. I was one of five people sitting in the Blue theater watching this official selection in the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. And one of perks of the Alehouse Cinemas is that you can bring your food and (alcoholic) drink into the show.

So naturally, not wanting to miss out on such a fine opportunity at three o’clock in the afternoon, I ordered a $4 Yuengling and a Polka Dog, which is a delicious hot dog dressed in a delicious dough. I liked that Yuengling was the featured beer considering they are America’s oldest brewery and a Lehigh family.They also sponsor the Musikfest Cafe on the third and fourth floors of the ArtsQuest Center, which is scheduled to provide world-class entertainment 200 nights of the year.

Lebanon, PA is a film that tells an emotional story, and from the very beginning you are intrigued, perhaps even excited, to dive deeper into the small Pennsylvania town. Like most places located in the countryside, it is implied that not much is happening. For Josh Hopkins’s character, Will, it becomes a place of humanity. The death of Will’s father brings him to Lebanon to clean out his father’s old house and belongings. There he meets CJ, an 18-year-old girl played by Temple University theatre major Rachel Kitson. Oh, and by the way, a boy in town got her pregnant.

This movie tackles the serious issue of teenage pregnancy and abortion and sets it in a supposed “easy-going” town. Turns out, it makes for great turmoil in the conservative countryside. At the same time, it posits the death of Will’s father against the potential birth of CJ’s baby. The tension is noticeable, but what really strikes at the heart of the audience, is how difficult it is to make decisions that you know will affect more than just yourself. Will becomes entangled in an affair with a married woman while CJ struggles with the idea of sacrificing her college dreams.

Lebanon, PA is a well-done film that won numerous awards on the festival circuit, and I recommend it if you are interested in good storytelling and not at all in expectations.



  1. I went to see Lebanon, PA at the Frank Banko Alehouse the week the movie opened – I liked it for the most part, although the scenes were a bit “fractured” (too short for my taste) at the beginning. I enjoyed how the movie stays away from cliches and doesn’t caricature the people living in the small town. It also doesn’t over-simplify the issues facing CJ either. I was impressed overall.

    I thought the Banko Alehouse was excellent – great seats, lots of legroom, outstanding views of the screen. This deserves to become a popular venue in the Valley. It is a pity that when I attended, I was the only one in the theater. Hopefully this is only because local residents are not yet aware of this great resource.

    As for the food and drinks, I only bought a coffee from the snack stand and brought it inside when I watched Lebanon, but based on what I have seen the other two times I have been there (regarding food and ticket sales), I will just say that the volunteers clearly are still learning their way. But hopefully they will learn fast. It’s a great theater and I can’t wait to go back.

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