Check out the lineup of sessions for Art House Convergence 2020, January 19 – 23 in Midway, Utah. The full schedule and keynotes will be announced the first week of December, 2019.

Alliance for Action

Is It Safer Here? Practical Tips for Communicating about Content
Featuring data and findings gathered by the Content Considerations Committee (CCC), this panel offers case studies and audience feedback about how exhibitors can effectively communicate about challenging content.  Ample time will be given for questions, ideas and feedback from participants. Come prepared to share your own thoughts and experiences. This panel builds upon the 2019 session “Is It Safe Here.”

Equity Workshop with Art/Work Practice
Join Tammy Johnson of Art/Work Practice for a workshop that will use arts-integrated practice to shift culture towards equity.

All Track

From Programming to Popcorn: Starting a Cinema 101
This speed-learning session will pair aspiring theater operators with veteran and influential voices of programming, operations, fundraising, marketing and leadership, who will share what they wish knew when they were launching their exhibition spaces and programming. No matter where you are in the process, this session will provide you with hot tips and the opportunity to network with experts in the field. Presented by the AHC Starting a New Cinema Committee.

Data Design: A Group Hack into Film Genre Algorithms
Is Spotify smarter than Netflix? Why? This interactive workshop introduces participants to Sultan Sharrief’s theory of Black Hole Data* and the problem of corrupt data in film marketing, distribution, and genre classification. We will do live data experiments and rapid prototyping to model more equitable algorithmic behavior and develop new approaches to categorizing films. We’ll also explore ways theaters can use their own audience data to promote diversity.

One Flew Over the Popcorn Kettle (Popcorn History)
Learn nearly everything there is to learn about popcorn in this quick and clever presentation. It will take you from ancient history to Orville Redenbacher.

Art House Tales
It returns! This session will present short talks about the stories of different theaters and film festivals! Each speaker will present 20 slides for 20 seconds each, and discuss their particular theater or festival. 20 slides x 20 secs = 6’ 40” each. The best part of the Art House Convergence is getting to know other people, the theaters and festivals that they run, and what makes them tick. That’s this session!

Trailer Wars
Trailer Wars is a battle-of-the-bands style competition in which ten art houses will screen their best in-house trailers. You, the audience, will vote for the victors. Winners of each round will move on with a new trailer until a champion is crowned. During the competition, the participants will be interviewed about their theaters, the production of their trailers, and their marketing strategies. This session is a fan favorite!

Development

(Almost) Everything You Wanted to Know About Writing an NEA Grant
Join the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Director of Media Arts Jax Deluca for an overview of how to submit a grant for NEA funding. We will cover the basics from registering your request to writing a compelling and standout narrative about how your organization or project aligns with NEA funding guidelines and priorities. Participants will also break up into small groups for a hands-on activity.

The Joyful Aftermath: Thriving After A Capital Campaign
Capital Campaigns are brilliantly transformational! Big dollars, bigger egos, and complicated construction projects are stressful, however, the ultimate outcome is sublime – frequently in surprising ways. Besides improving facilities, capital campaigns expand organizational capabilities, community connections and, surprisingly, new fundraising opportunities. Three executive directors will share the agony and ecstasy of capital campaigns and methods of sustaining and growing operational fundraising in the aftermath.

Raising Dollars with Data
Fundraisers depend on data at every stage, from identifying first-time donors to stewarding them for board involvement. Thanks to the new information economy, research can be gathered with relative ease, but how can we use and visualize data? How can organizations ethically store and share data, and what policies need to be communicated? Learn from panelists about leveraging data efficiently and ethically, and get ideas for how you can do the same.

How to Live Forever: Starting a Planned Giving Program
Planned giving and endowments are often pushed to the bottom of an organization’s priority list, but they are critical for sustainability. Even better, program can be established in a few simple steps and can engage donors at all levels. Panelists will share details on their organization’s programs, and give you some basic tips, tricks, and resources for how to start your own planned giving initiative.

Case Studies: Best Practices for Membership
In addition to being an important income stream, memberships are an effective tool for building community and increasing audience engagement. Join four art house cinemas from across the US as they offer tips on starting and improving your existing membership program, exclusive member events, high-level memberships, youth membership programs, member spotlights, and strategies for growing membership.

Small Town Development Practices
Small towns across North America are revitalizing the independent theater model, bringing diverse programming and community-based cinema to their local audiences. This session explores the unique fundraising challenges and opportunities facing independent theaters in smaller towns (fewer than 150,000 residents). Panelists will explore creative ideas for building audience development and sponsorship, and share how their venue honors its regional flair.

Education

Education Tools of the Trade
Want to build an education program at your theater and unsure of where to start? Want to improve and expand your existing program? This session will supply you with new tools and tips, including how to select and license films, locate existing discussion and resource guides, develop relationships with local teachers, and work through the logistics of getting students to your theater (or vice versa).

A Conversation About Race in Your Institutions
Do you ever think about the language people use when talking about programming for ‘minority’ communities?
Can we talk about the language you use when writing grants for black communities?
Can we talk about the issues black arts administrators work through regularly at your primarily white institution?
Can we talk about intention vs. impact?
This listening session will dive into the realities of common language used and other ways racism creeps into your PWI (primarily white institution).
We’ll talk. You’ll listen.

Films That Serve: Thoughtful Programming for Youth Audiences
In this working group, we’ll tackle the films we’re showing in our youth programs and consider what we might be missing and how we can better serve this important audience. If you already do youth education programs, share a few films that have had the most traction for your students. We’ll also take cues from the “A Conversation About Race in Your Institutions” panel.

Talk Less, Teach More
Utilizing a highly-visual presentation technique called PechaKucha, this fast-paced session will allow a group of educators to share their programming methods and strategies, talking a little less but saying a little more. Participants will walk away with ideas for a wide range of successful education programs (in both film exhibition and production) from art houses and film organizations around the country.

Film Festival Alliance

Bread & Butter: Festivals and Filmmakers
It’s time to end “us” vs. “them” mentality and foster a collaborative environment. What responsibilities do festivals owe filmmakers, and vice versa? Dive into the economics and ethics of this relationship including discussions about screening fees and programming transparency. We’ll also examine our power as micro-distributors, the value festivals can bring to filmmakers, and the value filmmakers bring to festivals. How can we effect change and achieve mutually beneficial outcomes for all?

Breaking Ground: From Festival to Cinema
Hear from film festival organizations who have taken the plunge into cinematic waters. What does a cinema look like? Should we do this, and if so why? Learn from festival panelists in various stages of starting or operating cinemas about budgeting, planning,  and earning buy-in from your staff, board and community. Then decide if this is the right option for you. 

We the Tastemakers
Just because we aren’t a ‘Market’ Festival, or don’t have high-profile industry in attendance doesn’t mean we don’t matter. In fact, we may be the most important tastemaker in town! As part of the majority of festivals sustaining our industry, we can drive a dialogue where premiere status and red carpets aren’t of tantamount importance, but collaboration is. Let’s discuss how we fit in both our community and the larger ecosystem of film consumption.

The Other 360 Days A Year
Many festivals take place once a year… so how do festival organizers maintain their curation aesthetic for audiences and filmmakers, when their physical presence disappears for 11 months, and why is this so important? From finding people and touch points in our community for collaborations, to social media and non-traditional or abstract ideas, we’ll hear how festivals are uniquely maintaining their brand presence within their communities and securing buy-in for next year.

Exit/Enter: Effective Leadership Change
An organization can outlast its founder, and sometimes needs to. How can leadership change affect, develop or reinforce the values upon which an organization is built… or go terribly wrong? When is it time to evolve to enable growth? How do we shape leadership change and legacy planning, particularly when staff and board have an even faster turnover? We’ll give panelists and attendees permission to speak in rough draft about this potent, often emotional topic.

Marketing

Tutorial: Play Nice! Checking on CRMs
Are all of your platforms—ticketing service, donor management, email client—playing nicely with each other? Are you sure? So was Gina Izzo, until a change in email providers prompted a comparative CRM (customer relationship management) deep dive, revealing shocking inconsistencies and several thousand abandoned customers. In this tutorial, you will learn a technique for comparing data reports and checking your CRMs.

Tutorial: How to Make Your Own GIFs (and Why You Should!)
GIFs have been around as an image format for decades, but only in the past 5 – 10 years have they become a massive part of the way people communicate online. Many companies have struggled to figure out how best to use GIFs to further their brand, but lucky for us, we’re selling motion pictures already. In this tutorial, learn some best practices for conceiving, making, and implementing GIFs on your theater or film festival’s social media platforms, using the Coolidge Corner Theatre as a case study.

Tutorial: 11 Quick Social Media Tricks to Build Connections with your Community
Social Media expert Chris Cloud of Meow Wolf will demonstrate eleven social media outreach strategies for creating a lively and engaged community for your organization. Come prepared to learn a collection of new methods that you can start implementing right away!

Branding 2.0: More Than Just Your Logo
Does your design tell your story? How do articulate your mission with images? Do you know your institutional voice? This session will look beyond logo to provide valuable tips about how effective branding express an organization’s identity across marketing and publicity platforms.

Building Positive Relationships with Press and Media
The Media can be your best connection to your community, but how many of your press releases are picked up and distributed? How do you build a stronger partnership with your local press outlets so they become a stronger mouthpiece for your arts and culture programming? This panel will focus on the best ways to strategize and cultivate valuable relationships with members of the press.

Audience Collaboration: Word-of-Mouth Marketing Strategy
When and why do people feel loyal to a cinema? Learn how you can connect with your community and embrace the slower, but more meaningful strategy of word-of-mouth marketing.  This panel will feature real cases studies from organizations that have built grassroots support by responding to audience feedback, developing special events, and cultivating an engaged membership.

Building Audiences Together: How Collaboration Can Strengthen Our Industry
Distributors. Exhibitors. Streaming Services. Filmmakers. We work in an industry of diverse stakeholders, each trying to find audiences for films. This strategy session will feature some exciting ways that some of these sometimes divergent stakeholders can collaborate toward larger goals, as well as provide a period where people in the room can brainstorm ideas to foster stronger, more innovative cross-industry collaboration moving forward. Sometimes the future can be hard to predict—let’s help shape it!

Operations

ADA: Accessibility Beyond Compliance
This panel will discuss the efforts of individuals, exhibitors, and organizations in moving beyond the baseline ADA requirements and providing a more fully accessible theater-going experience. In addition to providing basic resources for ADA compliance, this panel will share strategies and best practices for accommodations, marketing and communications, programming, online presence, and customer service that truly welcome diverse audiences to our organizations.

Bridging the Divide
Whether you’re a multi-location theater or a micro-cinema managing communication can be a challenge. Join us for case studies of how organizations of all sizes have been able to create a healthy environment for communication across departments, problem solving among staff, and deeper understanding among team members.

Staff Training: How to De-escalate
Conscientious interactions between staff and patrons are essential to art houses’ success. But what happens when patrons are suffering, angry, or disoriented? Drawing upon recent trainings with key professionals at the Belcourt Theatre, this session will provide strategies for compassionately and professionally de-escalating challenging interactions so that audiences feel heard and our teams are safe and supported.

Beyond Recycling: Reduce, Reuse, and Rot
How do we respond to the end of recycling? Join ecologically savvy exhibitors for a deep dive into how they’ve developed financially sound and forward-looking approaches to sustainability. Learn the realities of composting, reusing, and donating, how to afford them, and why you should give them a try.

Financial Literacy: Wages & Compensation
This workshop will provide an overview of how theater finances work with a particular emphasis on how compensations fits into the overall budget. We will also look at case studies of how financial literacy and alternative models using bonuses and wage sharing are helping create a more equitable workplace. The workshop section will provide space to discuss other financial tools including wage transparency, living wages and more.

Little Things Matter: Reasons to Love Your Art House
No two art houses are the same. Each of them, in all their thoughtful iterations, expresses  and affinity for one of the world’s greatest cultural resources–the moving picture. Join us for a networking session where participants share their own architectural, curatorial, and experiential strategies that contribute to the global phenomenon of art house culture. 

Programming

Guilty Pleasures
Inspired by adrienne maree brown’s Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good and recent articles about the “guilty pleasure,” this session will explore the meanings implied by that phrase (in terms of class, race, and gender as well as the high/low or serious/frivolous binaries) and begin an open and caring conversation about how our programming choices may reflect a restrictive politics of pleasure and, further, how we can become “pleasure activists” — creating more equitable, safe and welcoming spaces by embracing a range of cinematic pleasures.

Four Times a Day?!?: Collaborative Approaches to New Programming Paradigms
Traditionally a theatrical run dictates four shows per day for multiple weeks. But is this model obsolete? Bringing together distributors, exhibitors, and buyers, this panel explores how creative approaches to scheduling can diversify your line-up and boost attendance for true art house fare.

Workshop: Writing Introductions and Descriptions
You’ve scoured the globe for the best 35mm prints for your repertory series, so why leave the calendar copy to IMDb or the studio log-line? This panel focuses on the protean art of writing catchy film capsules and planning effective introductions that foreground your venue’s unique programming brand to cinephiles and general audiences alike. Often allocated uncomfortably somewhere between programming and marketing, these organization-defining opportunities are too important to be left as an afterthought.

Repertory Case Studies: Beyond Canon
Repertory staples are increasingly available everywhere, from streaming services to screenings at your local corporate multiplex. What’s the path for an art house that wants to go beyond annual screenings of Ghostbusters and It’s a Wonderful Life? In this special edition of our annual Repertory Case Studies panel, we’ll hear from programmers on the cutting edge of curation who are working to expand the canon while balancing institutional mission, promotional needs, and archival protocol.

Confidently Curate and Create Community around Queer Cinema
Hear from a distributor, outreach professional, exhibitor and an impact producer on how to identify affirming queer cinema, engage community partners with an eye toward intersectionality, and build an audience of both queer-identified folx and allies.

After Paramount: Navigating a Post-Consent Decree Landscape
Since 1948, the film industry has been shaped by the Paramount consent decree, the result of a landmark antitrust case brought against the major studios for anti-competitive practices such as theater ownership, block booking, circuit dealing, and blind booking. In November, the Department of Justice announced its intent to end the decree, citing its “restraint on innovation.” What will a post-Paramount world look like for independent exhibitors and distributors? Will a studio buy a theater chain? Will art houses be forced to book mainstream product to maintain access to smaller films? The future is unwritten, but our panel of industry veterans will discuss the history of the consent decree and the possible implications of its unwinding.