Behind The Screen: Not Alone

In this premiere edition of Behind The Screen — a peek behind the Crandell’s velvet curtain — FilmColumbia co-artistic director Laurence Kardish explores the Art House Convergence, and what it means to be an “art house” in 2020.

Not Alone

When the Chatham Film Club purchased the Crandell in 2010, we were fortunate in having the Art House Convergence to guide us. AHC had, over the two preceding years, established itself as the country’s leading organization aiding and abetting the merry but dedicated band of inspired cinephiles keeping the increasingly quaint national habit of moviegoing alive.

I know there is some argument whether the Crandell is an art house — defined as a movie theater exclusively showing independent, experimental and foreign films that are not merely entertainments. In practice the “art house” today is really an independently run and managed cinema free from corporate oversight, not necessarily a home for a special type of cinema. We would like to think that anything we show has a value beyond keeping an intelligent audience amused, but we do of course show mainstream films — as do, at this point, virtually all “art houses” in America.

Movies are popular public amusements and we see that as part of their strength.  Our independent cinemas are local, and operate in part on the advice, guidance, and the goodwill we receive from our colleagues and friends at the Art House Convergence. Through chat groups, Convergence members learn about best practices on a host of matters concerning running an independent movie theater, including: maintaining equipment during a shutdown (of critical importance now), virtual cinema (also of immediate relevance), making cinemas safe to attend, ticketing, staffing, scheduling, and, among many other topics, the concession stand.

The following is the mission statement of the Art House Convergence. It speaks for itself: The AHC is an association dedicated to advancing excellence and sustainability in community-based, mission-driven media exhibition. Each year our annual conference, regional seminars and programs provide networking opportunities, educational resources, and define best practices for hundreds of theaters and festivals located throughout North America. Collectively, our constituents host over 30 million audience members annually.

In this time of quarantine and closure, the administration of the Convergence is going through a radical transformation, and its annual Conference (which Crandell board members have attended over the past years) has been cancelled. Historically this conference has taken place Sunday through Thursday in Midway, Utah — in the hours just before the Sundance Film Festival.

Although the Conference won’t happen in January for the fear of 700 plus film enthusiasts in an enclosed space, Art House discussions remain informative and vibrant on the internet, information is shared freely and willingly, and the Crandell remains very much connected to its cohorts across the country (and into Canada and Mexico!). However, one aspect of the Conference I and others will sorely miss in 2021 is Art House Tales, a two evening event in which representatives of independent movie houses recount the colorful, challenging histories of their home grown establishments. To view some of these wonderful stories, visit their website for a host of rousing short videos about the miracle of making a movie theater. I promise you that you will applaud each one.

Larry Kardish,  Crandell Theatre Board of Directors and Co-Artistic Director, FilmColumbia