Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Little Ohio Movie Theater That Could

It wasn't just the rise and fall of 20th century socialism that was on display at the recent Telluride Film Festival. Preceding Friday and Sunday screenings of Peter von Bagh's political doc Socialism was a shorter look at the rise and fall of traditional film projection.

The Last Reel, which runs less that than the length of a single reel of projection booth film, documents the final 30mm celluloid event at Yellow Springs, Ohio's Little Art Theatre. The April, 2013 event was a big media deal; for example, NPR did a story on it, interviewing projectionist Andy Holyoke.

The Last Reel co-directors Julia Reichert and Steve Bognar were on hand for the Colorado premiere, and no doubt their nine-minute short will provoke many more interesting Q&A discussions as it wind its way through the festival circuit.

This story has a happy ending. In September 2013, after a summer renovation, the one-screen Little Art was triumphantly re-opened. From a write-up in the Yellow Spring News:

"The Miracle Off of Short Street," the latest movie pun on the Little Art’s marquee, particularly rings true for executive director Jenny Cowperthwaite. Five years ago, the future looked bleak for the struggling theater. Faced with an industry-mandated transition to digital and without any way of paying the $80,000 price tag for a new digital projector, the Little Art looked like it might be among the estimated 20 percent of theaters in North America that would not convert to digital and would probably close in the next few years.
Then in 2009, the theater became a non-profit and began raising the $50,000 it needed each year to cover its losses. An ambitious capital campaign was started last year to raise $475,000 for a complete renovation and digital conversion. Initial gifts from the Morgan Family Foundation ($250,000) and the Yellow Springs Community Foundation ($30,000) were crucial to the campaign, according to Kipra Heermann, the capital campaign committee chair. The rest was raised from a combination of individuals, foundations, businesses, board members and even the Little Art’s employees. A total of 475 people contributed, including some from as far away as Maine and many people who had never been to the Little Art. More than 17 gifts were in excess of $5,000.

And for those who can afford, what better way to show local movie theater support than to underwrite the concession stand's main engine? In the case of the Little Art, we're talking The Carol Cottom and Bruce Bradtmiller Popcorn Machine! You know, just around the corner from The Priscilla Janey-Pace Screen.

To mark last fall's grand re-opening, Little Art hosted a 12-day festival that kicked off with a new digital print of Harold Loyd's iconic 1923 silent Safety Last! (Insert non-silent "ahem!" here.) Currently playing at Little Art is Woody Allen's Magic in the Moonlight.

[Little Art Theatre]

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