Spotlight AHC: Amherst Cinema & Pleasant Street Theater
Two Theaters, One Nonprofit Umbrella
We are a nonprofit arts organization offering cultural and educational programs through two cinemas in two vibrant downtowns in the Connecticut River Valley in western Massachusetts. We are supported by 2,300 members who come from a 25+ mile radius ranging from the Connecticut border to the Vermont and New Hampshire borders (and beyond). Our weekly enewsletter reaches 5,000.
Amherst Cinema (downtown Amherst, MA) – 3 Theaters
The Amherst Cinema was built and opened in 2006 with a $3M Capital Campaign. Each theater has Dolby sound, stadium seating, 35mm and digital projection (DVD and BluRay), satellite reception for HD broadcasts, and a stage for speakers, readings and live music performances. Each theater is fully handicapped-accessible. The lobby has eclectic décor utilizing architectural elements saved from a cinema that operated at this site for 70 years.
Pleasant Street Theater (downtown Northampton, MA) – 2 Theaters
The Pleasant Street Theater has been a legendary destination for art film for over 35 years. When the theater threatened to close in 2007, the community approached us, asked us to take the Pleasant Street Theater under our nonprofit umbrella, and raised $130K in a five-week, world-wide email campaign. The funds were used for theater refurbishing and equipment upgrades.
1. First-run Film 365 days / year
Our primary focus is on new and classic foreign, independent and documentary film. Most of our 150 films a year would never be seen at the cineplexes. Programming of first-run films is by Connie White of Balcony Booking, www.balconyfilm.com, and David Mazor of Amherst MA. Connie also handles booking.
We offer See-Hear-Feel-Film, the third grade visual literacy program originated at the Jacob Burns Film Center. The program at the Amherst Cinema reaches 50 third grades (1,100 children) from throughout our region. This program was launched for the 2011 – 2012 school year and has been enthusiastically received. Over 75% of the children come on full scholarship, at no cost to the children or the schools.
3. Special Events and Film Series
We offer special event programming, often collaborating with the Five College institutions nearby (University of Massachusetts and Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith Colleges) and with museums, our local NPR affiliate, other nonprofits, and with individual writers, directors, musicians and other artists, and with experts in science, technology and medicine. We often host filmmakers and other artists at special screenings of their films.
Examples of special events and programs:
Science on Screen Series: Unexpected pairings of film with talks by experts in science, technology and medicine.
Jazz on Screen Series: Documentaries and feature films that celebrate and illuminate the jazz life, with live music performances and expert commentary by the long-time jazz host at our local NPR affiliate.
Essential Cinema: Film masterpieces that changed the way films were made and watched.
Seeing Sound Series: American music on film in a range of style and form, brimming with raw emotion, powerful storytelling and rare performances that traverse the beautiful and rugged terrain of music culture (blues, gospel, New Orleans second line parades, no-wave, jazz, etc.).
Films That Slipped Through the Cracks: Recent best-review, least-distributed films.
Masters of Film Series: Hitchcock, Bogart, Chaplin
Tournée French Film Festival: Contemporary French film
National Theatre Live: Our third season of plays captured live from Britain’s National Theatre.
DEFA Film Library (Cinema of East Germany), University of Massachusetts: Filmmakers and other internationally renowned artists, in conjunction with special screenings of films.
Representative Other Special Events and Film Series:
Screening of HOWL, with Oscar-wining filmmakers ROB EPSTEIN (attended Hampshire College) and JEFFREY FRIEDMAN
Artists in Residence, in collaboration with the Five Colleges: Pedro Costa, Charles Burnett
Annual screening of FIVE COLLEGE STUDENT FILM AND VIDEO FESTIVAL WINNERS, featuring films by students from the Five Colleges
Screening of LOUDER THAN A BOMB, with student poets featured in the film.
Yiddish Book Center Founder and President AARON LANSKY speaking at a special screening of SHOLEM ALEICHEM: LAUGHING IN THE DARKNESS
Film Series: 1950s COLD WAR CULTURE & THE BIRTH OF THE COOL, with Hampshire College faculty.
Cinemas’ Annual Gala
2009: With KATHLEEN TURNER as honoree.
2010: With KEN BURNS as honoree, with special recognition of photographer Jerome Liebling.
2011: With ALEX GIBNEY as honoree
Most Popular Movies in 2011 (in gross revenue)
King’s Speech, Midnight in Paris, Black Swan, Tree of Life, Jane Eyre, Win Win, The Guard, The Descendants, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Buck, Sarah’s Key, Beginners, 50 / 50, Margin Call
Biggest Challenges Facing Independent Cinema
1. Changing Competition:
Commercial cineplexes booking art-house film.
Telescoping time between theatrical runs and film availability online.
Costs of converting to digital cinema
Which Session Most Looking Forward To
All of them!