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Uptown cineastes had to cringe at the closing of Video Alternatives, whose owner sold his titles to fledgling home-entertainment rental purveyor Channel Zero. But before we note that Uptown's loss is clearly Bywater's gain -- Channel Zero doubled its inventory with the addition of the some 4,000 videotapes and 1,000 DVDs -- everyone should be happy to know that the Prytania Theatre just became a whole lot more accessible.

After eight months of enduring the hell that has become the Prytania Street renovations, the block of Prytania between Jefferson Avenue and Leontine Street finally opened up for traffic again. The psychology of having to look at, and avoid, that one- and sometimes three-block stretch turned off many of its customers and prevented drive-by traffic from seeing posters for current and upcoming attractions, management said.

The Prytania is also celebrating the Oscar nominations with a weekly series of return engagements of major nominees. After Cold Mountain (seven nominations) finishes up this week, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (10 nominations) opens Friday, Feb. 6. Future weekly screenings include Mystic River, Monster and Finding Nemo leading up to the Prytania's annual Academy Awards viewing party Feb. 29.

Meanwhile, back at Channel Zero, owner Shannon Stits is sifting through her embarrassment of riches after the metamorphosis from neighborhood video store to Important Arthouse Flick Haven of Downtown. Clearly, Video Alternatives enjoyed tremendous cachet with movie renters throughout Uptown and beyond -- only Lakeview's Award Winners Video claims anywhere near the same indie/foreign reputation.

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