Melissa Starker sees four or five movies every week. We figure she watched more than 2,515 flicks in her 10-and-a-half years as Alive's film critic and arts editor. And that's on top of the thousands of plays, concerts and exhibits she saw as the city's chief cultural observer.

Melissa Starker sees four or five movies every week. We figure she watched more than 2,515 flicks in her 10-and-a-half years as Alive's film critic and arts editor. And that's on top of the thousands of plays, concerts and exhibits she saw as the city's chief cultural observer.

Naturally, now that she's leaving Alive, Melissa plans to ... watch even more movies. She's starting the new year with a new gig at the Gateway Film Center.

The end of her tenure at Alive just happens to coincide with the end of the 2000s, so it's a perfect time to look back on Melissa's last decade in the local arts scene.

What brought you to Columbus from Boston?

I married somebody from Ohio, and we decided we wanted to live someplace that was a little more affordable. And I actually got a job at the Drexel Theatres before we moved here in 1994.

What surprised you the most about Columbus when you got here?

That I couldn't get any decent pizza, but fortunately that has changed. Once I got to know the city, what surprised me was how big and diverse it was and how many things were happening here.

What's the biggest change you've seen in the city's arts scene?

More respect on a national level. The fact that we've had a few different places written up by the New York Times is pretty nice.

Also, the grassroots work is really impressive - artists taking initiative and doing their own thing and organizing and creating these really amazing events. It gives you a great sense of the character of the city.

What's the biggest challenge facing the arts scene in the next 10 years?

Money. It all kind of flows from that. And maintaining that level of [grassroots] energy and momentum.

Where do you like to take out-of-town visitors when you're showing off the city?

The Wexner Center, Tip Top Kitchen & Cocktails, the North Market and Jeni's, and Goodale Park. I love my neighborhood.

What's Columbus' best-kept secret?

I'm not sure there is a best-kept secret. I think Columbus is good about embracing its better qualities. That's one of the things I like about the city. A lot of the really cool things, we hear about - one way or another.

What's one thing you would change about Columbus if you could?

I would change the mindset among certain people who live here that it's a small town.

What are you going to miss most about working at "Alive"?

The people. But I'm going to see you guys, so it's not like I'm going off and doing something completely remote.

And being connected to everything. You get a lot of information coming through here. The fact that there is so much going on, it's good to keep track of it, so I'll just have to keep reading the paper.

What are you going to miss the least?

The writing. I love writing, but it's a very difficult job. There are a lot of people out there that do it exceptionally well, some of them in this office, so I'm kind of happy to be turning that part of things over to others.

What's your favorite memory of "Alive"?

The time when there were, like, four Alive staffers who all had birthdays within a week and a half of each other. We had a group birthday party at my house with a DJ. That was probably the best party I've ever been involved in.

What are you going to do with your Tuesday nights now that you won't be on deadline every week?

I'll actually be on a different deadline - I'll have listings and ads and bookings. Monday and Tuesday are also the busiest days of the week in the film industry.

Being a movie critic is a dream job for a lot of people. What's the toughest part of the job?

Part of it is that you always want to see everything, and it's just not possible. Another part of it is because it's a dream job for so many people, there's so many people out there who think they can do it better than you.

Do you find that movie critics are targets for criticism because of that?

Yeah, sometimes. But the thing that motivates them is a genuine love for movies, or else why would you spend so much time watching them?

Do you ever get tired of watching so many movies?

Hardly ever. Only when my house is dirty.

Do you eat a lot of movie popcorn and "medium" sodas? You know, the large is only 50 cents more.

Super Size Me put me off soda. I don't drink a lot of it at this point. Years and years of working at movie theaters didn't really put me off popcorn, but I don't order it very often.

What's your favorite movie concession item?

Buncha Crunch.

You worked at the Drexel and Studio 35, and then reviewed movies for the Columbus Guardian, The Dispatch and Alive, and now you're going back to a movie theater. How has your perspective changed through those different roles?

Covering film as a journalist has to involve the business side [of movies] at this point. I had to be aware of that. But it also allowed me to see a lot of movies, which is good for anyone who's trying to get people to see more of them.

This particular job [at Alive] allowed me to get to know the city's arts community, and see a lot of potential for the arts community and the film community to work together. So it's kind of given me a slightly bigger-picture way of looking at things.

How has film exhibition changed in the years you've been covering it and working in it?

It's constantly changing right now. There's the way it's presented - film vs. digital. There's the way it's seen - in theaters vs. Netflix vs. streaming vs. pay-per-view. There's so many different options for how you can see a movie now, and there's a lot more options for how filmmakers can get their films to audiences.

Also, movie theaters have had to expand their idea of what they can be. So they're not just going to be showing movies, they're going to be having events, or renting out spaces for weddings.

Lots of change, lots of saying goodbye to old ways of doing things and looking at new possibilities. That's kind of exciting.

What will you be doing in your new job at the Gateway?

I am going to be involved in everything from concession menus to programming, and I'm going to be spreading the word about everything we're showing, and looking at different events to highlight the films we're showing. I will also be overseeing the blackbox space and looking at different possibilities there.

It's pretty wide-ranging at this point. A lot of stuff I'm going to be tag-teaming with [Gateway Film Center president] Chris Hamel.

What's the best advice you've ever received?

This is borrowed advice from my friend's father: "The most expensive thing you'll ever own is your integrity."

What are three things you can't live without?

Dunkin' Donuts coffee, my MacBook and my husband Bob.

What's one thing about you that people might not know?

I'm terrible at small talk. So if I'm not talking much, I'm not being stuck up - I just can't think of anything to say.