At TIFF 2019 Art House Convergence Managing Director Alison Kozberg and Programming Track Head Sarah-Tai Black joined conversations at the Industry Conference about the theatrical experience and decolonizing the screen.
The Big Screen: Have Rumors of My Demise Been Greatly Exaggerated?
A panel of industry experts will debate the state of the cinematic experience, discuss industry and audience trends, as well as discuss the new opportunities that today’s marketplace offers.
Alison Kozberg leads Art House Convergence, a North American association for art house cinemas that provides resources and networking opportunities to hundreds of cinema exhibitors each year through its conferences and events. Kozberg was previously director of the Nickelodeon Theatre, where she ran cinema programming and operations. She has also led symposia and special events for a wide range of theatres and museums.
Anick Poirier is co-president at WaZabi Films, licensing quality art-house with crossover potential feature films worldwide. WaZabi Films, a division of DATSIT Sphere Inc., represents Cannes Official Selections Matthias et Maxime (19) and A Brother’s Love (19), to name a few. Poirier was previously senior vice-president for Seville International, eOne’s boutique sales outfits
Matthew Ball is a two-time digital media executive. From 2016 to 2018, he served the global head of strategy for Amazon Studios, and prior to that was a director at the Chernin Group, a digital media investment company founded by long-time Newscorp COO and 20th Century Fox CEO Peter Chernin. Today, he is a venture capitalist focused primarily on interactive media.
Eli Glasner is an arts reporter and film critic with CBC. Each Friday, his reviews can be heard on CBC News Network, as well as his weekly appearances on many local radio shows
Engage @ TIFF: Pan-Africanism in the Caribbean & Decolonizing the Screen
This session focuses on the overlapping yet distinct notions of post-colonialism, pan-Africanism, and the diasporas of the Caribbean, and how they can engage in and maintain a filmic conversation with the African continent. Speakers include Jason Fitzroy Jeffers, Co–Executive Director of Third Horizon, and host Claire Diao, film critic and co-founder of the pan-African film journal Awotélé.
Co-programmed with Engage, a series of panels and think tanks engaged in pertinent, challenging, and multi-faceted questions facing the African film industry now.
Sarah-Tai Black is a film programmer, arts curator, and writer living in Toronto. She is the programming coordinator at Images Festival and has worked as a member of TIFF’s festival programming team. She is also one of the directors of the Royal Cinema, where she programs a monthly series called Black Gold.
Jason Fitzroy Jeffers is a Barbadian filmmaker, writer and co-executive director of the Miami-based Caribbean filmmaking and arts collective Third Horizon. Its annual Third Horizon Film Festival celebrates and empowers the new creatives emerging from the region.
Claire Diao is a French and Burkinabè journalist and film critic. She founded in 2013 the Quartiers Lointains short film touring program, co-founded in 2015 the pan-African film critic magazine Awotele, and has been the CEO of Sudu Connexion since 2016. Her essay, “Double Vague, le nouveau souffle du cinéma français,” was published by Au Diable Vauvert in 2017. She is also a host of the TV talk show Ciné Le Mag on Canal+, Une dose de ciné on France O, and takes part in Le Cercle on Canal+. Diao received the 2018 Beaumarchais Medal from the Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques.
Renee Robinson is the film commissioner of Jamaica and a multilingual creative economy strategist and thought leader. She has two decades of management experience within the verticals of film, television, digital entertainment, and communications, in Canada, Europe, the US, South Africa, and the Caribbean. She holds a master’s in communications and culture with a specialization in the management of telecom innovation, with joint coursework in the MBA in arts management, from York University, and a bachelor’s in art studio and art history from Williams College.
Adventurous movie lovers trekking to our treasured national parks can trade big skies for big screens with trips to nearby art house gems. In National Parks, Volume 1, we focus our lens on the Northwest with three art house-national park pairings.
Yellowstone National Park, WY + Art House Cinema and Pub, Billings, MT
Driving from Billings you will be able to easily access the park’s North Entrance (90-W to 89-S) or East Entrance (90-W to 310-E to 120-E to Highway 20). Use the North Entrance to visit Mammoth Hot Springs and enjoy the Boiling River thermal soaking area. Use the East Entrance to visit Yellowstone Lake, formed by volcanic eruptions, and the Hayden and Pelican Valleys.
Art House Cinema and Pub was established as a non-profit by Billings native Matt Blakeslee, who worked with local architects to convert an old downtown bowling alley into a single-screen cinema with room for future expansion. Serving craft beers on tap and specialty sodas alongside art house new releases and select rep screenings, Art House Cinema and Pub is the perfect place to relax before or after your Yellowstone expedition.
Opened in 2015, Art House’s first house seats 80 and features at least two new release films each week plus special events. Having been quickly embraced by the Billings community, Art House is also fundraising to support plans for two additional screens, more space for food and drink, plus new programs to support education and community engagement.
In addition to their dedicated home, Art House manages The Babcock Theatre, a 750-seat historic theatre built in downtown Billings in 1907. The Babcock has had a storied history, with the latest chapter starting in 2018 when the City of Billings purchased the property and awarded stewardship to the Art House organization.
Glacier National Park, MT + The Roxy Theater, Missoula, MT
The site of over 700 trails, alpine forests, and over 130 lakes, Glacier National Park is a stunning destination for camping, hiking, and nature photography. Driving north from Missoula (93-N to US-2) will take you to West Glacier and the West Lake and Apgar Ranger Stations adjacent to Lake McDonald — a lake created by glacial carving.
The college town of Missoula will offer the perfect beginning or end to a visit to Glacier National Park, and the Roxy is located in the heart of downtown. Sitting beneath a terrific art deco marquee, The Roxy has fully embraced its natural surroundings, with a mission “to inspire, educate and engage diverse audiences about the natural and human worlds through cinematic and cultural events.” In addition to year-round programming featuring new releases and classic films, the Roxy also hosts two annual film festivals: International Wildlife Film Festival (IWFF) and the Montana Film Festival.
The Roxy originally opened in 1937 and operated until 1994 when a fire destroyed the theater. Having started in 1977 at the University of Montana, IWFF purchased the building to make the Roxy its home. The re-birthed Roxy launched year-round programming in 2013 and now features three screens with both state-of-the-art digital cinema and 35mm film projection.
Olympic National Park, WA + Rose Theatre, Port Townsend, WA
Located on the coast of Washington sits Olympic National Park, a lush, coastal wilderness. The park is just one hour west of the small city of Port Townsend, the site of Victorian Seaport architecture and the Rose Theatre.
To access Olympic National Park from Port Townsend head west (20-W to 101-W) and to gain direct access to the Olympic National Park Visitor Center and Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. Hurricane Ridge is the most accessible mountain area in the park, from there you can access campgrounds at Deer Park and in the Elwha Valley. Before your visit, check for road closures and restoration projects and to learn about the park’s other incredible ecosystems: subalpine forest and wildflower meadow, temperate forest, and the rugged Pacific coast.
The beautiful Port Townsend offers a perfect addition to the trip — visit the downtown waterfront, cafes and restaurants before heading to a screening at the Rose Theatre.
Opened as a vaudeville house in 1907, the Rose followed a similar route of many live theaters, eventually transitioning to film. The Rose has screened films from the silent era to the talkies to being Port Townsend’s treasured art house home today, with three screens, local beers on tap, and each show personally introduced by a Rose host.
Andy Brodie is a writer and film worker based in Brooklyn, New York. An Iowa native, he co-founded both FilmScene in Iowa City, and the Des Moines Film Society. He is also founder and programmer of Short Order, a short film series presented with Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.
Art house cinemas have been the beneficiaries of foreign-language films for over seventy years. Racism and xenophobia threaten our core values and are irreconcilable with our priorities of culture and community.
At its inception, the art house movement provided a forum for empathy and understanding, exposing American audiences to perspectives and experiences from around the world.* On February 25, 1946, a subtitled print of Roberto Rossellini’s Rome Open City (Roma, cittá aperta) debuted at the World Theatre in New York, initiating a record-breaking twenty-one month run that presaged the ascendance of a vibrant U.S. art film market anchored by the exhibition of foreign films.
Rome Open City was applauded by critics around the world for its moving depiction of the struggle to resist fascism during the Nazi occupation of Rome. One of its most memorable and heartbreaking scenes is of a forced family separation — made all the more painful by its contemporary relevance.
As exhibitors we have the privilege to share artworks of complexity, artistry, and empathy, and to amplify voices that are too often unheard in our communities. We have the opportunity to host conversations and cultivate common ground instead of cruel division. We have influence, and with that, responsibility.
We have a responsibility to denounce racist rhetoric and actions, to develop programming in solidarity with people when they are vulnerable, to provide a forum for a global community of filmmakers, and to reject efforts to cast hate-speech and discrimination as merely “racially-charged” or alternative points of view.
During recent weeks U.S. government officials have forcibly separated families and detained immigrants and refugees in unsanitary and unsafe facilities. They have used racist rhetoric to justify these actions and in attempts to silence dissent, sow hatred, and provoke violence.
We can respond to this by elevating our art houses as spaces of healing and collaboration. We have the opportunity to program films from around the world to celebrate the creativity and perspectives of filmmakers of diverse races, ethnicities, religions, genders, and nationalities.
I am inspired by art houses’ devotion to their communities and know that we will combat vitriol and discord with art, dialogue, and critical discourse bolstered by ethical clarity and conviction
Art House Convergence
* Though foreign-language films screened in the United States prior to World War II, the number of art house exhibitors, volume of foreign-language film exhibition, and the general public’s awareness of art cinemas increased substantially after the war. For histories of the post-war art house movement consult Tino Balio, The Foreign Film Renaissance on American Screens 1946 – 1973 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2010) and Barbara Wilinsky, Sure Seaters: The Emergence of Art House Cinema. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001).
The Art House Convergence Visiting Members Program provides reciprocal membership benefits to members from all of its participating theaters. Are you a devoted art house member ready for adventure? Art House Convergence is providing travel tips and resources for film aficionados ready to visit some of the United States’ best art houses.
This summer head from IFC Center in New York City to Phoenixville, PA for the legendary Blobfest at the Colonial Theatre, and don’t forget to stop at the Princeton Garden Theatre in Princeton, NJ and the County Theater in Doylestown, PA on the way.
IFC Center, New York, NY
Located on 6th Avenue in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, the IFC Center screens a combination of first run indie, international, and documentary films with such a vibrant line-up of special guests and filmmakers that it’s almost certain your visit will include something special. They are host to the annual DOC NYC festival, Human Rights Watch Film Festival, and the monthly series Pure Nonfiction, making them an essential destination for documentary enthusiasts and anyone interested in cinema’s activist and educational applications. Other regular series include Queer|Art|Film and Waverly Midnights. During your visit be sure to check out the Posteritati Gallery of classic movie posters.
Princeton Garden Theatre Princeton, NJ
A non-profit cinema located near the historic Princeton University. Opened as a movie theater in 1920, the Princeton Garden Theatre is operated by Renew Theaters and was named the best movie theater in New Jersey by NJ.com. Regularly screening a combination of first run and classic art house cinema, the Princeton Garden Theatre screens films for audiences of all ages including a monthly Kids! Series and a Garden classroom educational program for local schools. They are celebrating the summer of 2019 and 50th anniversary of the moon landing with the series New Frontiers but are always a destination for beloved classics, including films starring Princeton alum Jimmy Stewart.
County Theater Doylestown, PA
The beautiful streamline moderne County Theater opened in Doylestown in 1938. Since the 1990s the theater has been the site of significant restorations that have helped return it to stunning Art Deco splendor. When you visit check out the gorgeous marquee and neon tower. Today, the County Theater, which like the Princeton Garden is operated by Renew Theaters, brings new and classic films to its loyal membership.
Colonial Theatre Phoenixville, PA
The Colonial Theatre is nothing sort of legendary. Originally opened in 1902 for combination of film and vaudeville performances, the Colonial became a silver-screen star when it became the setting for the absolutely iconic theater scene in the 1950’s sci-fi classic The Blob starring Steve McQueen. Now operated as a non-profit, the community treasure presents a combination of new and classic films and curated series including a dedicated program of late night chills. Each year The Colonial is also host to Blobfest, an annual celebration of 50s kitsch and sci-fi that features screenings, a Friday Night Run Out, and a street fair. Hosted annually in July, Blobfest is a must for cinephiles so hop on the highway after the 4th and begin your art house road trip.
On the Road…
En route from New York, NY to Phoenixville, PA stop for some pastries, and to see a castle.
McNulty’s Tea & Coffee Co New York, NY
Located half a mile from IFC Center, McNulty’s Tea & Coffee Co has been selling rare, fragrant coffee and tea in Manhattan since 1895 and moved into its current location in 1920. The historic neighborhood institution is crowded with jars and bags of coffee and tea of all varieties from around the world. Buy a new variety for yourself or a friend and enjoy a cozy drink with a book from the Strand Bookstore.
Strand Bookstore New York, NY
East of IFC Center, across Washington Square park is Strand Book Store home to over 18 miles of new, used, and rare books. They have staff picks, collectibles, and aisles aisles of books of all genres ready for browsing. Adjacent to NYU the neighborhood boasts a selection of other smaller bookstores too, including Alabaster Bookshop (the last of its kind on 4th Ave) which offers a wonderful library of trade paperbacks and classics and extremely affordable prices, and Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks.
The Stonewall Inn & Stonewall National Monument New York, NY
Just blocks away from the IFC Center sits the Stonewall Inn and Stonewall National Monument, a landmark in the history of the gay rights movement. In June 1969 it became a flash point for activism, as members of the LGTBQ community joined to protest persistent police harassment, violence, and discrimination. The protest sparked a revolution, and is celebrated each year in New York during Pride. Though many observe that the character and spirit of the Village (and much of Manhattan) have changed in the last 50 years, the Stonewall Inn remains an important site for historical reflection and contemporary activism.
Agricola Princeton, NJ
After driving south to NJ on I-95, head to farm-to-table restaurant Agricola, for a simple, yet carefully crafted meal showcasing local ingredients. They serve lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch and offer a full plant-based menu alongside farm-sourced entrees of fish and meat. In addition to a full, craft cocktail menu they also offer house made sodas. It’s a wonderful place to talk, take your time, and savor a meal — and has great options for vegans, but Renew Theaters Executive Director Chris Collier swears by their burger.
Terra Momo Bread Company Princeton, NJ
Looking for a sweet treat, breakfast, or lunch? Artisan bakeshop the Terra Momo Bread Company has been serving house-made baked goods since 1998. Drawing on inspiration from Italy, Pan Latino, and the Mediterranean, they offer a daily selection of breads, focaccia (topped with cheese and tomatoes), croissant, sandwiches, and beautiful tarts. Traveling with young film lovers? Try their hedgehogs (bread shaped like the animal).
Mercer Museum & Fonthill Castle Doylestown, NJ
If you head west towards Phoenixville on I-295 N you will pass through Doylestown and have the opportunity to stop at the Mercer Museum & Fonthill Castle. Completed in 1912, Fonthill Castle was home to archaeologist, anthropologist, ceramist, scholar and antiquarian Henry Chapman Mercer and intended to showcase his collections of tiles and prints. Made entirely of poured concrete, the expansive mansion which Mercer described as “a castle for the new world,” combines Gothic, Byzantine, and Medieval styles. Mercer was also concerned about the displacement and obsolescence caused by the Industrial Revolution and accumulated a massive collection of objects from American life of the 18th and 19th century, which are now displayed in the Mercer Museum. Keep your eyes open for a whale boat, stagecoach, and tiny treasures like watchmaker’s gears.
Wharton Esherick Museum Malvern, PA
Just 5 miles south of the Colonial Theatre is the Wharton Esherick Museum. A leader of the studio furniture movement, Wharton Esherick was a sculptor who worked primarily in wood, creating furniture, interiors, and buildings. The museum is located Esherick’s home and studio. Visit for a guided tour to see truly exceptional designs in a beautiful setting.
To the Editor:
Re: Will The Movies Exist in 10 Years? (Arts & Leisure, Sunday June 23):
Kyle Buchanan’s article on the future of movies fails to include a single representative from the field of theatrical exhibition and rehearses the same eulogy for theaters delivered upon the arrival of television and home video. Consequently, the piece lacks meaningful insight into the fundamentally social aspects of movie-going and the benefits of shared experience.
The future of cinema is directly tied to theaters’ cultural and educational potential. A more thorough analysis of the state of movies might include Frederick Joseph’s #BlackPantherChallenge, the Crazy Rich Asians #GoldOpen, public screenings and special events at the Belcourt Theatre (Nashville, TN), the Jacob Burns Film Center (Pleasantville, NY), The Loft Cinema (Tucson, AZ), FilmScene (Iowa City, IA), and hundreds of other mission-driven theaters that foster an appreciation for the arts, encourage media literacy, and facilitate conversations about some of the most challenging subjects of our times.
At a time when the relationship between political polarization and solitary media viewing has never been more evident, we must raise the bar from asking “how movies can survive” to examining how and when they thrive. Over the past decade, movie theaters across the country have successfully embraced the principles of community-based and mission-driven programming, focusing on prioritizing audience experience, public dialogue, and positive cultural impact.
A failure to account for how theaters are evolving from businesses into principled cultural institutions risks devaluing vital communal experiences at the precise moment when we need them most.
In cities throughout the United States June is Pride, a month to celebrate LGTBQ experience, identity, self-determination, and community. The celebration also commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, protests against police harassment and violence that were foundational in the Gay Liberation movement. It is also occasion to celebrate LGTBQ filmmakers and filmgoers absolutely paramount contributions to the history of art cinema, from midnight movies, to audiences participation, to the resuscitation of old Hollywood legends as cult figures, much of the vibrancy of the art house community were conceived and nurtured by communities of queer film lovers. This June check out some of the art houses paying tribute to important queer filmmakers and cinema.
Barbara Hammer: The Body in Film, The Wexner Center for the Arts
In addition to presenting the exhibition Barbara Hammer: In This Body, the Wexner Center for the Arts is hosting three programs of work by legendary experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer. The subject of retrospectives at MoMA and the Tate, and a Teddy Award Winner, Hammer was known for her innovative formal style, lyricism, and pioneering depictions of lesbian intimacy and identity, as well as her political conviction and activism. The programs Mortal Bodies, Sensual Bodies, and Political Bodies explore Hammer’s depictions of physical vulnerability, pleasure, and her efforts to “find the political,” and include her films Nitrate Kisses (1992), A Horse is Not a Metaphor (2009), and Multiple Orgasm (1977). A longtime friend of the Wexner, Hammer passed away earlier this year, during her illness she became a committed advocate for terminally ill people’s right to die.
Paris is Burning, Film Forum, New York, NY
Before Ryan Murphy’s Pose or KIKI there was Paris is Burning. Activist filmmaker Jennie Livingston filmed Paris, a depiction of the city’s underground ballroom scene, in New York in the late 1980s. Pioneered by LGTBQ Black and Latinx activists and artists, Ballroom created a community in which houses, functioning as families, competed in dance, drag, performance, and fashion categories. Ballroom offered, and continues to offer, a platform to innovate performance art, social critique, and a supportive network in the face of homophobia, poverty, and government failure. Livingston’s films captures key figures from the community including house mother Pepper LeBeija, drag queen Dorian Corey, and choreographer Willie Ninja, describing their approach to dance and performance, and highlighting the political potency of assuming the roles of executives and military officials for ball categories. The film continues to provoke important conversations about vouyerism, white filmmakers’ relationships to their subjects, and who profits from documentary, while remaining a moving encounter with inspiring activists and artists. This June the film returns to New York for screenings at Film Forum.
“Since Stonewall,” Trylon Cinema, Minneapolis, MN
The Trylon Cinema in Minneapolis celebrates the anniversary of Stonewall with “Since Stonewall,” a two-screening series featuring presentation of The Boys in the Band (soon to be adapted again by Ryan Murphy), a 1970 film adaptation of the popular off-Broadway play considered one of mainstream film’s first depictions of gay life, and The Celluloid Closet, a seminal documentary about LGTBQ representation in Hollywood Cinema.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, TIFF Bell Lightbox, Toronto, Ontario
TIFF Bell Lightbox presents a screening of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, Bollywood’s first lesbian love story and a conversation about representation and inclusivity in Bollywood. Co-written by transgender activist and screenwriter Gazal Dhaliwal, the film is the first to depict Lesbian relationships within the context of a mainstream Indian film (filmmakers including Deepa Metha have previously explored lesbian relationships in indie cinema). Panelists include film programmer Aaditya Aggarwal, and Indu Vashist, Executive Director of the South Asian Visual Arts Center.
The Art House Convergence Visiting Members Program provides reciprocal membership benefits to members from all of its participating theaters. Are you a devoted art house member ready for adventure? Art House Convergence is providing travel tips and resources for film aficionados ready to visit some of the United States’ best art houses.
We are kicking off our Visiting Members blog series with a Southwestern road trip from the Loft Cinema in Tucson, AZ to the Frida Cinema in Santa, CA. Don’t forget to stop at the Palm Springs Cultural Center on the way.
The Loft Cinema, Tucson, AZ
Tucson’s independent movie theater since 1972. The Loft Cinema is a nonprofit dedicated to creating community by celebrating the art and diversity of film. They screen first-run independent and foreign films and host tons of special series including the campy Mondo Mondays (weird, wild, and wonderful), a running program of Essential Cinema (classics the way they were meant to be seen), family programs, cult classics, and plenty of outdoor screenings (past screenings have included a presentation of JAWS poolside). They were the first U.S.-based member of the Solar World Cinema movement, and use solar energy to power their main building.
Palm Springs Cultural Center Palm Springs, CA
Formerly the Camelot Theatre at the Palm Springs Shopping Center, Palm Springs Cultural Center hosts a variety of art and food related events in the heart of gorgeous Palm Springs, CA. Film programs include tons of film festivals (Noir, CinemaSustainable), and LGTBQ programming, and members get discounts on concessions and festival passes.
Frida Cinema Santa Ana, CA
Located in downtown Santa Ana the Frida is the only non-profit art house in Orange County. They opened in 2014 and have since become an absolutely essential destination for film lovers. They are a cult movie and horror haven with huge audiences turning out for new releases like MANDY and TRAIN TO BUSAN, a Horror Movie Night hosted in collaboration with HorrorBuzz, the Camp Frida 12 hour horror marathon, and the Starship Frida intergalactic movie marathon. They also get the whole team involved with the monthly “Volunteer of the Month Pick.”
On the Road…
En route from Tucson, AZ to Santa Ana, CA stop for ice cream, cocktails, and a hike through the desert.
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art Scottsdale, AZ
Heading north on I-10 from Tucson you will pass through Phoenix and Scottsdale, AZ, stop into the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art to see some rare gems including Knight Rise, one of light and space artist James Turrell’s completed Skyspaces, and rotating exhibitions of works by important contemporary artists.
Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Parlor Scottsdale, AZ
Take a break from clean modern lines in the the candy-colored Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Parlor an old-timey parlor decked out in bubble-gum pink. The Sugar Bowl has been serving up sweet treats since 1958 and their menu includes soda fountain classics alongside some truly tasty sundaes.
Joshua Tree, CA
After entering California along I-10 you will pass along the southern border of Joshua Tree National Park, an exquisite national park named for its scrubby Joshua Trees. See beautiful rock formations and desert vistas. Approaching from the freeway stop at the Cottonwood Visitor Center and choose a hike in the southern portion of the park.
Palm Springs, CA
After time outside head to the vacation destination of Palm Springs, CA to luxuriate in the midcentury modern oasis that has been a getaway for classic Hollywood stars including Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, and Katherine Hepburn. Pick up a map for a self-guided architectural tour at the Aerial Tramway Station (designed by E. Stewart Williams) or enjoy one of the many guided midcentury modern tours offered around town. Enjoy a cocktail at Mini Bar at the opulent Parker Hotel, or a classic deli sandwich and mile-high slice of cake at Sherman’s (for those interested in a more contemporary take on the deli head to Wexler’s @ ARRIVE). Ready for another ice cream? Head to Lappert’s.
Cabazon Dinosaurs Cabazon, CA
Famous for their role in PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE, the Cabazon Dinosaurs are a classic Jurassic roadside attraction for tourists visiting Palm Springs.
Mission Inn Hotel & Spa Riverside, CA
Located between Palm Springs and Orange Country, as you transition from I-10 to CA-91 Riverside is the hometown of California citrus and was once a vacation destination for wealthy east-coasters seeking rest and relaxation in the sunshine. Designed to intertwine fantasies of the west with European grandeur, the Mission Inn is an extravagant example of Californian-Mission Revival Architecture. Walk the expansive grounds and drop into the Presidential Lounge for a J.F.K Cosmopolitan or W.H. Taft Appletini (likely not the cocktail Taft ordered during his 1909 visit.)
Finished seeing Riverside? Hop on CA-91 and continue on to the Frida!
Did you know that Ann Arbor is home to longest-running experimental film festival in North America?
Since 1963 the Ann Arbor Film Festival has been hosting screenings with artists ranging from Yoko Ono and the Velvet Underground to more recent presentations of work by Akosua Adoma Owusu. This summer Art House Convergence is celebrating this history with an educational session dedicated to curating experimental films at our Regional Seminar.
So what is experimental film?
Like the designation “art film,” experimental film, and the oft-used associated designations of avant-garde and underground are regularly debated and contested, and have been parsed out in a variety of texts. Produced without traditional commercial imperatives and regularly rejecting standard narrative causality, experimental films are often micro-budget, small gauge, abstract, and irreverent. They might reference Hollywood, recycling its refuse into punk, queer, and subversive critique, but they definitely aren’t of Hollywood, and though money changes hands they definitely operate using a financial system distinct from the mainstream.
Read more in Allegories of Cinema (David James, 1989), An Introduction to American Underground Film (Sheldon Renan, 1967), Politics of Resistance: Women, Power, and Politics in the New York Avant-Garde Cinema 1941 – 1971 (Lauren Rabinowitz, 2003), Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde 1945 – 1980 (P. Adams Sitney, 1974).
Ready to watch some films?
Check out our list of some of the United States’ longest-running exhibitors of experimental film, then stop in for a screening.
Why were all of these organizations founded in the 1970s?
Like art houses during the mid-2000s, during the late 1960s experimental film exhibitors were contending with significant market disruption. Throughout the 1960s, while the Production Code exerted its last waning influence on commercial Hollywood cinema and the Supreme Court tentatively thawed government regulation of obscenity, exhibitors of experimental film often operated as (precariously) commercial enterprises — attracting viewers with the promise of transgressive, and titillating content, as well as politically radical art. However, in the 1970s in the face of the New Hollywood Cinema and the commercialization of pornography, the dominant model shifted. Exhibitors embraced and expressed their steadfast commitment to film as art and arts education, establishing themselves as media arts nonprofits, and seeking support from the (relatively) new NEA and other government initiatives like CETA.
Grounded in a commitment to cultural enrichment, and democratic arts access, these exhibitors forged a lasting model that thrives today. Pay them a visit for some truly eye-opening experiences.
Anthology Film Archives, New York, NY, since 1970
Founded by filmmakers Stan Brakhage, Peter Kubelka, and Jonas Mekas, a figure known for his role in founding a variety of influential institutions of the New York avant-garde including the Filmmaker’s Cooperative and Film Culture magazine, along with patron Jerome Hill, and scholar P. Adams Sitney, whose widely-read Visionary Film is celebrated and critiqued for forging the most widely-read history of of avant-garde cinema. The organization launched with a manifesto and promised to exhibit “film as art,” asking “What are the essentials of the film experience? Which films embody the heights of the art of cinema?”
Confident in their capacities as arbiters of quality, Anthology’s founding curatorial board created a list of essential films they promised to screen many times, believing that the very best films warranted multiple viewings. Their list included some of the most frequently watched avant-garde films to date including Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon and Marcel Duchamp’s Anemic Cinema, as well as narrative features likes Charlie Chaplin’s Gold Rush, and underground works including Robert Nelson’s parody Bleu Shut, which features a timer in the corner as a nod to anxiety about avant-garde film’s protracted run-times.
Essential films were to play in the “invisible cinema.” Described as “a machine for film viewing,” the invisible cinema was the antithesis of contemporary multiplex loungers and cinema-beds. In an era before rampant in-theater texting, filmmaker Peter Kubelka designed the cinema so that guests would sit on firm, hard-backed chairs flanked by partitions so that they would look at the screen and not each other.
Today Anthology is home to a tremendous archive including the world’s largest paper collection related to independent and experimental cinema and screens more than 900 programs annually, featuring films a global array of innovative retrospectives. 2019 programs included “Punk Lust: Raw Provocations,” “Prison Images: Incarceration and the Cinema,” and a tribute to founder Jonas Mekas, who passed away in 2018.
Los Angeles Filmforum, Los Angeles, CA, Since 1975
Founded by Terry Cannon in the Los Angeles suburb of Pasadena (home to the annual Rose Bowl) at a time when the former-turn of the century retreat for millionaires attracted artists with low rents and commercial vacancies. Pasadena Filmforum was a decidedly funky west-coast outpost for alternative film viewing where guests often sat on couches for relaxed, salon-style conversations.
Cannon was a recent graduate from San Francisco State University and had encountered experimental film programming in the Bay Area. Still in his early 20s, he received a seed money grant from the aptly-titled Pasadena Community Spirit Organization and set to work hosting visiting filmmakers and celebrating work by locally-based, unknown outsider artists like Sara Kathryn Arledge, whose 1958 film What is a Man, remains a sharp, hilarious critique of masculinity. Early series included “Women in Film,” “In Person: Shirley Clarke,” and “West Coast Funk.” In 1982 the organization launched “Show for the Eyes,” the first international mail art project.
Today Los Angeles Filmforum has been host to a variety of significant retrospectives and research projects on the history of experimental film including Scratching the Belly of the Beast: Cutting-Edge Media in Los Angeles, 1922 – 94, Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles 1945 – 1980, and Ism, Ism Ism: Experimental Cinema in Latin America. The organization operates as a mobile cinema, working with the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood and MOCA to host programs including “Representations of Leaving: Queer Death and heavens,” “Small, real: Observation and the Mundane,” and programs of films by Kevin Jerome Everson and Martha Colburn.
Facets, Chicago, IL, since 1975
They were committed to the work, withstanding Chicago-winters with little heat, renovation, and micro-budget to forge an innovative program featuring an international array of films (a scope reflective of Stehlik’s own background as a Czech cinephile). The couple’s commitment to the art of film was clear and celebrated locals including film critic Roger Ebert, and national figures like Brian O’Doherty of the National Endowment of the Arts once said “It is Milos and the few people in this country like him who are continuing to nourish the art film.”
In the 1980s, as the marketplace evolved, Facets adapted, forging a name for itself as a leading distributor and force in the home video market and bringing works by filmmakers including James Broughton and Barbara Hammer to a broader audience.
Today Facets streams films from its website, operates a cinematheque year-round, boasts an enormous DVD library, is home to a youth education program, and presents the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival. Recent screenings include Black Mother and you can still catch the films of James Broughton, as well as an array of international avant-garde films on FacetsEdge
San Francisco Cinematheque, San Francisco, CA, since 1961
An offshoot of Canyon Cinema, a cooperative launched by filmmakers including Bruce Baillie and Chick Strand, as well Ernest Callenbach of Film Quarterly. Guided by an anarchic, alternative ethos, the organization began as backyard screenings. A 1963 newsletter observed “Our theater began in the backyard of a beautiful lady in Canyon, California, summer, 1961. If there are new films there must be theaters, this was the reason for beginning.” By 1962 screenings were nomadic, occurring in homes, backyards, and even an anarchist restaurant.
Notable about the programming, was that Strand and Baillie acknowledged that some films would be bad. They wanted to explore new approaches to filmmaking, and recognized that required taking risks as artists and exhibitors. Recollections of their program at this time frame it as witchy and wonderful, fliers featured hand drawn flourishes, Chick would attend to the box office in a cloak with candles. It felt like a community and was genuinely funky, forging an ethos that have been credited as inspiring contemporary micro-cinemas. In 1966 the filmmakers formed a distribution cooperative for “willing devotees of the magic lantern muse,” and invited all film artists to participate.
In 1976, with hopes of achieving non-profit status the Canyon Cinema’s distribution and exhibition arms separated. The distributor continued to operate cooperatively, while the distributor that would become the San Francisco Cinematheque became a non-profit and received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. Canyon Cinema, which became a non-profit in 2012, remains one of the most important distributors of experimental cinema in the United States. Once an outsider, by the 1980s the Cinematheque was considered by locals to have become establishment and was subject to a revolution in the form of a “takeover” screening. The revolutionaries would go on to form No Nothing Cinema while the Cinematheque would form a programming committee with hopes of becoming more egalitarian.
Today the San Francisco Cinematheque operates as a mobile exhibitor, hosts the annual film festival Crossroads, featuring a combination of film and performance at SFMOMA, and presents a year-round screenings series featuring programs like “Imaging the Avant-Garde: Taiwan’s Experimental Films of the 1960s” and “The Shape of Surface.” In 2010, Steve Anker, who was director of the Cinematheque from 1992 until 2003 partnered with Steve Seid and Kathy Geritz of the Pacific Film Archive to co-edit Radical Light: Alternative Film & Video in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945 – 2000.
Walker Cinema, Minneapolis, MN, since 1973
In 1973 the Walker Art Center consolidated its experimental film exhibition by establishing a dedicated film department under stewardship of film coordinator John Hanhardt, who had been recruited from the Museum of Modern Art, and began a film study collection with plans to develop an archive. As an interdisciplinary arts center, the Walker integrated media into its galleries, built a collection, and hosted theatrical screenings. During the 1970s, curator Melinda Ward collaborated with Sally Dixon who was running the media arts center Film in the Cities (FITC) to bring filmmakers including Stan Brakhage and Robert Breer to the Twin Cities. Pioneering filmmaker Hollis Frampton, whose (nostalgia) and Zorns Lemma experimented with time and language, was among the program’s participants, recalling that on earlier trip to the Twin Cities he had narrowly evaded a plane crash by lingering at an Edward Weston exhibition of photographs.
Today the Walker Ruben/ Bentson Moving Image Collection features more than 1,000 titles, including works by Joan Jonas, Gunvor Nelson, and Derek Jarman, and selection plays regularly in an audience-programmed mini cinematheque on the museum’s ground floor. The Walker also commissions new moving image works and hosts curated screenings, recent programs include INDIgenesis: Indigenous Filmmakers Past and Present, combining narrative and experimental work, curated by Missy Whiteman and Film in the Cities: A History and Legacy.
Happy Earth Week! All around the world art houses are instituting sustainable and eco-conscious policies and programs to make their theaters wonderful places for the audience of today and the audience of tomorrow. Ready to take the next steps towards reducing carbon emissions or plastic use? Prepared to participate in global initiatives to respond to environmental crisis? We all have a role to play in reducing waste and sharing knowledge.
We’ve put together a list of some theaters that are doing amazing work in their communities.
Amherst Cinema, Amherst MA
In order to be more green Amherst Cinema is reducing waste and embracing renewable energy. They have started using compostable cups, straws, and lids, are phasing out landfill packaging, and have successfully cut their landfill trash by approximately 75%. In order to acclimate audiences to the transition they have also produced a PSA that screens before all films and includes trash sorting instructions.
They currently get 100% of their power from renewable sources, 1/3 from their own rooftop solar array, and 2/3 from wind energy, and are replacing fluorescent light bulbs with more energy efficient LED bulbs. They were able to subsidize the installation through fundraising and a local cultural facilities grant.
Ready to start composting? Check out the U.S. Composting Council’s Guide to Workplace Composting.
Belcourt Theatre, Nashville TN
Market research estimates that Americans are using over 100 billion straws per year and they are contributing to the eight million tons of plastic that flow to our beaches. Many states, businesses, and organizations including the Belcourt Theatre in Nasvhille, TN are attempting to curb this trend by changing practices so that their straws stop going into landfills and onto beaches. The Belcourt currently has a straw recycling program and has switched to compostable popcorn bags, and by installing new, clearly labeled waste receptacles they are making sure that patrons understand how to help reduce waste and that disposables end up where they belong.
Ready to reduce plastic straw waste? Check out One Last Straw’s list of alternatives.
Echo Park Film Center, Los Angeles CA
As a micro-cinema and media arts center committed to equal and affordable access to film/video resources, The Echo Park Film Center in Los Angeles has integrated eco-friendly priorities into its infrastructure and its curriculum. The organization hosts offsite film programming throughout the Los Angeles area using an eco-friendly Filmmobile, fueled by a combination of solar power and waste vegetable oil.
The cooperatively managed film center also hosts a robust, environmentally conscious educational program, offering classes including “Eco-Processing for Super 8 Film,” in which students learn to process film with beer, wine, coffee and other non-toxic materials, and “How Does Your Garden Grow?” in which students worked with activists, gardeners, and artists to produce films about urban gardening.
Ready to see some of the amazing eco-friendly artwork students are producing? Check out the EPFC Vimeo channel.
The Loft Cinema, Tucson AZ
Located in sunny Tucson, AZ The Loft Cinema, has embraced solar energy as a way to reduce their carbon footprint. They use solar energy to power their main building (housing screens 1 and 2), marquee, and all of their outdoor screenings.
Their outdoor screenings are powered by their solar-powered mobile cinema. The Loft Cinema was the first U.S.-based member of the Solar World Cinema movement, a global network of solar powered mobile cinemas with participants based in countries including Brazil, Gambia, and Nepal. The van utilizes a 1.24 kW solar electricity installation, comprised of 4 LG 315 W modules, paired with an off-grid inverter and battery array, installed by Technicians For Sustainability, allowing the van to store energy generated during day-time hours for evening operations, screen inflation, and up to three hours of film and audio projection.
The Loft’s solar-powered mobile cinema travels to neighborhoods throughout the Southwest and beyond, as well as festivals and other outdoor events in Tucson, enabling a simple solution for on-the-fly screenings for large audiences.
Considering going solar? Check out the Technicians For Sustainability Solar Education Portal.
Palm Theatre, San Luis Obispo, CA
Located in beautiful San Luis Obispo north of Santa Barbara, CA, The Palm Theatre was the first solar-powered cinema in the United States. In 2004 owner Jim Dee committed to reducing the theater’s carbon footprint and installed 80 solar photovoltaic sun-facing panels, eliminating 22,152 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
Since then, 18 additional panels have been added, each eliminating 25% more pounds of carbon dioxide than the original 80. The transition hasn’t just helped the theater more effectively pursue its mission, its also helped reduce overhead, electricity costs, and dependence on utilities companies. As Dee notes “businesses that plan to operate for more than 10 years should invest in green energy. Movie theaters are perfect for solar power because operation hours usually spike at night, after all of the solar power is collected.”
Does your theater have a green initiative you would like to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Screening films six nights a week, the formerly micro Trylon Cinema in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis, MN opened in 2009 and expanded in 2017 to its current 90 seat capacity. They host classic and repertory series regularly with themes including Reaganland: 1980s Dystopia, Robert Bresson: Transcendence and Austerity and Majesty in Monochrome: Black and White Cinemascope. The Trylon also regularly goes on location to host screenings at the city’s historic Heights and Riverview theaters including the Minneapolis Hitchcock Festival. The 1926 Beaux Arts Heights Theater can project 35mm and 70mm and the Trylon regularly presents 35mm, believing that “35mm film has a warmth and feel that should be part of the moviegoing experience, just like the real butter on our popcorn.” Most nights you can find Cinema Manager and expert film handler Nikki Weispfenning behind the projector threading, winding, and ensuring the excellent presentation of prints ranging from archival gems to faded cult classics. Here, Managing Director Alison Kozberg asks Nikki questions about life in the booth.
Nikki, you are a 35mm projectionist. How did you learn to handle film?
I learned to project when I was living in New York. I worked box office and concessions at the Sunshine Cinema (which closed in 2018) — after a couple years they promoted me to shift manager, which involved projecting. At the time, every theater had at least one union projectionist. The Sunshine’s was Joe Lynch and he taught me how to thread projectors. I followed him around for a few shifts and I ran one film – this was in 2003. But then I moved to DC for a year and didn’t work in a theater again until I moved back to Minneapolis in 2007. A couple people I knew were helping to reopen the Parkway Theater, so I started there as a part-time projectionist. And once I was at the Parkway, I learned everything I didn’t know very quickly on the job. I started working at the Trylon in 2011.
Tell me a bit about the Trylon.
The Trylon Cinema is a 501c3 nonprofit. We only have three employees including me and John Moret our programmer, as well as amazing volunteers including our Executive Director. It is a one screen theater and one of my favorite places in the world. Our programming is almost entirely repertory, with the exception of Sound Unseen (usually music documentaries). We have presented films by the Shaw Brothers on 35mm, as well as series on Kobayashi, Cocteau, Ava Gardner, and Warren Oates.
Let’s talk about prints.
In the 35mm vs. digital debate, I almost always land in favor of film. Prints can be really memorable, just because of weird little things going on with them. Film can be more challenging and is definitely more work, but it is more fun! When something goes wrong with film I am much more likely to be able to fix the problem in a timely manner. When the film breaks, you fix it and are going again in 90 seconds! When a server loses power, you are down for at least 10 minutes and it is nerve-wracking.
I like pristine prints and I like grittier ones — they both have their place. We showed a print of Bergman’s Shame that was one of the best prints I have ever seen — just amazing. It was my first time watching that movie, and the print was so gorgeous that it definitely made me appreciate that movie more than if I had seen it under less ideal circumstances. But on the other hand, the print of Wild At Heart we showed last month is the same one we showed a couple years ago and it is a bit beat up — which seems perfect for that movie… I love that movie, but it has a trashy vibe that is enhanced by a few scratches.
What kind of projectors does the Trylon have?
For 35mm we have two Century model SAs. We only run 2000 ft reels (some booths run from platters or from 6000 ft reels). Every 15-20 minutes a projectionist is threading, watching for cue marks, and making the changeover between the two projectors.
What is your favorite film that you have projected?
My favorite film to project is Hausu. We show it every year at the Trylon, last year we only had four screenings, but some years we’ve had as many as nine. I’ve only seen it twice, but I’ve projected it more than any other film.
The Trylon used to have a series in which programmers defended films that are generally hated, is there a film that you would like to defend?
My defenders pick would either be Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights or Gleaming the Cube.
You introduced me to a game in which one selects their favorite film for every year of their life. What are your favorite films from 1984, 1996, and 2002?
1984: Streets of Fire
1996: Irma Vep
2002: Esther Kahn