Spotlight AHC: Tropic Cinema
This week’s Spotlight AHC takes a look at the Tropic Cinema. Located in Key West, the Tropic Cinema is South Florida’s only nonprofit, independent multiplex. Executive Director Matthew Helmerich answers our questions below.
Please give us a brief history of your organization and the types of films you show.
The Tropic Cinema opened its doors in downtown Key West in April 2004. Starting in 1999 with the modest goal of bringing quality movies to the island city, a small group of cinephiles formed The Key West Film Society. They showed 16 mm films where they could – in a gym, at City Hall – until we found a space originally built as a McCrory’s five-and-dime. Today, the Tropic is South Florida’s only nonprofit multiplex: a 10,000 square-foot, movie palace housing four theaters, a gallery space and a luxurious lounge and concessions café.
The Tropic specializes in independent film – small, foreign and documentary – but also screens Hollywood wide-releases.
What have been your most popular movies this year?
Do you offer any special events or programs?
The Tropic is a beloved cultural town square for Key West. We host scores of concerts, political forums, lectures and cultural exhibitions every year. Tropic auditoriums serve as screening rooms for community college film classes and performance space for grade school dance recitals.
Are you running 35mm, digital projection or both?
We are installing DCI-compliant projectors in two of our theaters this weekend! [December 17, 2011]. We plan to keep our 35 mm projectors as long as we can; we hope always to have at least one for archival film screenings. We also screen from an Emerging Pictures server, DVD’s and Blu-Rays.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing independent cinemas right now?
Communications and information technology is growing beyond our comprehension – that growth has transformed our world for good and for bad. As for movies, access is exploding – in your living room, your hotel room, at your computer, your airplane seat, your mobile phone. The idea of going to an art house to see a film seems almost archaic. But in art houses resides the power, the allure, which enlivens all human interaction with art. People will always want to see movies together – art houses make that possible.
Which session are you most looking forward to at the 2012 Art House Convergence?
Juliet Goodfriend’s Art House Survey Project is always interesting. It inspired us at Tropic Cinema to compare our own practices and numbers to art houses around the country.