Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Terror by the Sea: THE BIRDS

Our "Hitchcock at the Height" series comes to a close this Wednesday, July 31, with the avian thriller The Birds, which will be introduced by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D.

Terror by the Sea: The Birds
By Kerri Grogan, BMFI Staff Assistant

Spoiler warning!

This year marks the 50th anniversary for Hitchcock's harrowing film, The Birds (1963), but the novelette it was based on was already a decade old by then. Also titled The Birds, it was written by Daphne du Maurier and originally published in 1952. Both feature deadly attacks by birds in a seaside town, but there are some big differences from text to film. One of the main changes was Tippi Hedren's character, Melanie Daniels, who was originally war veteran and family man Nat Hockens.

The other distinctive change is setting. While the original story is set in du Maurier's native Cornwall, Hitchcock moved the story to Bodega Bay, a remote coastal town in California. Eerily enough, two years before the film's release, there was a real avian invasion in the seaside city of Santa Cruz, California. Hitchcock reportedly asked for a copy of the news article covering the event (which you can read here) to use as research material. Obviously the real event had no widespread aftermath, but the novelette does: by the end, all of Britain is suffering from deadly attacks. Hitchcock's film doesn't explicitly have the same apocalyptic results, but it does hint at it.

Hitchcock leaves a very open ending in the film by intentionally omitting a "the end" title card. He wanted audiences to have the impression that the terror faced in the film was ongoing.

Did you know? The attic attack scene took a full week to film, and used only live birds–no puppets. Hedren was injured during filming, and afterwards, she was so exhausted that she had to spend a week in the hospital! Hitchcock leading man Cary Grant happened to be visiting the set that week, and after watching the filming, he called Hedren "one brave lady" for her work on it. [Source]

Kerri Grogan is BMFI’s Staff Assistant. She studied animation at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and moonlights as a dice-rolling, video gaming geek, blogger, and comic artist.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Talk about FRUITVALE STATION: A Moderated Discussion and Take-home Topics

By Devin Wachs, Communications Manager, BMFI

We are thrilled to present the powerful new film Fruitvale Station starting today at BMFI. The drama features a break-out performance from Michael B. Jordan (The Wire) as Oscar Grant, who was shot and killed by a transit cop in the wee hours of New Year's Day 2009. Written and directed by debut filmmaker Ryan Coogler, this heart-wrenching dramatization of Oscar's final day won awards at Sundance and Cannes and co-stars Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer as Oscar's mother.

Michael Coard, a criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia with twenty years of state and federal trial experience, will moderate a discussion about Fruitvale Station and the issues it raises after the 7:00 pm show this Monday, July 29. You can download a flier with more information about this special screening and buy tickets here.

Below you'll find some questions for self-guided discussion; printed copies are also available in our lobby.

Suggested Questions for Self-guided Discussion
  1. The film’s outcome is a given and the story is told in flashback. Did the “spoiler” at the beginning spoil anything for you as a viewer? Does knowing the outcome make the details in the dramatization seem more meaningful or poignant?
  2. What impact did including the real cell phone footage captured by bystanders at the scene have for you as a viewer?
  3. How does the film put you into the characters’ shoes? What methods did the filmmaker use that promoted your understanding of their situation?
  4. What effect does the flashback to prison in the film have on you as a viewer? What role does it play in giving you a better sense of Oscar Grant?
  5. What did you think of the inclusion of the dog scene?
  6. How does the use of the hand-held camera change your relationship to the characters and the story being told?
  7. This is an emotional film. What aspects of it most touched you? What filmmaking techniques did the filmmakers use to heighten your emotional response?
  8. What is your biggest takeaway from the film?
  9. When Oscar Grant was killed on New Year’s Day 2009, it shocked the world and made headlines. How does your remembrance of the news coverage of the event impact your understanding of the film, and vice versa?
  10. How does the film’s character-oriented narrative approach impact your understanding of the issues Oscar Grant’s murder raises?
  11. Would you consider Fruitvale Station a political film? How does the film contribute to your understanding of race relations in America?
If you've seen the film, what discussion questions would you add? Tell us in the comments below.

Devin Wachs is the Communications Manager at Bryn Mawr Film Institute. She joined BMFI in 2005, following her graduation from Bryn Mawr College. If you send BMFI a message on Facebook or Twitter or are interested in onscreen sponsorships, she's the one who will be in touch!

Friday, July 19, 2013

"Talkie" Triumphs and Technical Tribulations: THE COCOANUTS

Our "Mad for the Marx Brothers" series continues this Saturday, July 20, with the Marx Brothers' first feature film, The Cocoanuts!

"Talkie" Triumphs and Technical Tribulations: The Cocoanuts
By Kerri Grogan, BMFI Staff Assistant

Before the Marx Brothers released their first feature-length film, The Cocoanuts, producer Monta Bell wanted Groucho Marx to discard his signature grease paint mustache, citing that it was too "phony-looking" for audiences to believe. Groucho's response? "The audience doesn't believe us anyhow. All they do is laugh at us, and isn't that what we're being paid for?"

Filming The Cocoanuts (1929) for the silver screen had its pitfalls. Trying to record singing, music, and zany antics in the early days of sound films was tricky. Cameras were noisy--so noisy that they had to be placed in soundproof cases so that the camera noise wouldn't be recorded by the external microphones! Microphones were stationary, too, meaning that in order to stay within the recording area, actors had to keep a limited range of motion.

Another problem was recording sensitivity. If camera sounds were being recorded, you can bet that other noises were, too. One of the most notable problems was the rustling of paper props. At first, shots including them were re-recorded, very carefully, to minimize the sound that they made. Then someone had the bright idea of soaking all the paper props on set in water!

Does this map look a bit soggy to you? Chico and Groucho Marx look over blueprints for the Hotel de Cocoanut.
Rumor has it that director Robert Florey was also put into the soundproof camera chamber once or twice. Why? He had never seen the Marx Brothers in action, and couldn't stop laughing while the cameras were rolling.

Fun fact: The ink that Harpo drinks in the hotel lobby was actually Coca-Cola. Delicious!

Kerri Grogan is BMFI’s Staff Assistant. She studied animation at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and moonlights as a dice-rolling, video gaming geek, blogger, and comic artist.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Gus Cileone: Voyeurism, Fantasy, and VERTIGO

BMFI film fan and author Gus Cileone interprets Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller Vertigo. Do you agree? See the film for yourself on the big screen at Bryn Mawr Film Institute on Wednesday, July 17. Vertigo is showing as part of our Hitchcock at the Height film series, which is presented in conjunction with a four-week film course about the filmmaker's best-known works.

Voyeurism, Fantasy, and Vertigo
By Gus Cileone, BMFI Film Fan
*Spoiler Alert*

Alfred Hitchcock addresses voyeurism often, which is fitting, since his audience lives vicariously through the characters he presents on the screen. But, he goes further, making the audience, from the perspective of the camera lens, an unseen presence stepping into the stories themselves. We become a Peeping Tom, like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window; we observe Janet Leigh through the hole in the wall, in Psycho; we are accused directly of causing the coming apocalypse in the diner scene in The Birds.

In Vertigo, Jimmy Stewart’s weird obsession with Kim Novak’s Madeleine takes this voyeurism to the point of obsession. The voyeur has no respect for the individual, who is only a means to satisfy the voyeur's fantasy. In the opening credits we see a woman's face and then her eye. We then look into that eye, and there is a spinning pinwheel. Right from the beginning, Hitchcock is saying that a man can lose his balance with obsession over a woman.

After Stewart's detective, Scottie, discovers that he has acrophobia, hanging from a gutter after chasing a criminal, he is traumatized by witnessing a fellow policeman fall off the roof trying to save him. Falling becomes a motif in the film. The story takes place in hilly San Francisco, which symbolizes the precariousness of Scottie's predicament. (Scottie lives right near Coit Tower.) Probably because he feels guilty about the dead police officer, he dives into the bay to save Novak's character. But the jump also shows how dangerous his obsession can become. Of course, there are the falling deaths from the tower, and Scottie has dreams of falling off the tower. After the death of his fantasy woman, he drops into a state of catatonia, unable to be in the real world. The falling theme also refers to the danger of falling in love with the wrong person, for both Scottie and Novak's Judy. One could push it and say, for Scottie, the towers are phallic symbols, and the fear of falling could symbolize the fear of impotence in real life, thus encouraging the escape into fantasy.

Jimmy Stewart stars as a traumatized detective caught in a deadly scheme.
The acrophobia is not only a plot device so that Scottie can't witness it when Gavin (Thomas Helmore) throws his wife off the tower. It also symbolizes Stewart's character's inability to see the big picture from a height. He can only see as far as his version of a dream woman. The first scene deals with beauty and sex, as we watch his ex-fiancĂ©e, Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes), draw fashion pictures and discuss a newly designed bra. She is not the Hitchcock ice goddess, since she just draws beauty and clinically describes the bra's engineering. When she draws a picture of Novak as Gavin's wife Madeleine and substitutes her own face, Scottie quickly departs the room, showing how she does not fit his sexual requirements. She is real and can't compete with a dream girl. Gavin is an old friend, who knows of Scottie's disability, and wants Scottie to find out where his wife is going on her mysterious trips. At first Scottie is the voyeur spying on her beauty at the restaurant. Hitchcock places the audience in the car seat, following Novak, joining the detective in his fantasy. When he follows her through a dark walkway and opens the door, the scene lights up with the beautiful colors of flowers that the equally beautiful Novak is buying. It reminds one of Dorothy opening the door of her drab house to witness the awe of Oz, which is both a fantasy land and can be dangerous, just like Scottie's obsession.

Madeleine (Kim Novak), when Scottie follows her to the flower market.
The husband says a dead woman is possessing his wife. She goes into spells, visits her grave, and looks at the dead woman's painting on the wall of the gallery. Scottie observes that the curl in Novak's hair mirrors the curl of the dead woman in the painting. We realize that the circular curls also echo the theme of spinning wheels, leading to actual and symbolic vertigo. The story of the ghost plays into the whole unreal, fantasy theme of the film. Scottie sees Madeleine check into a hotel, but the concierge says she was not there that day, and there is no evidence of her in the hotel room. After Scottie rescues Madeleine from the bay, the camera shows her clothes hung up and drying in his home, and Novak naked under the covers in his bed. This is kind of creepy, knowing that she has been undressed by a stranger. It is as if Stewart's character presumptuously has actually taken possession of her (in contrast to her pretending to have become possessed) as an object in his fantasy world.

After rescuing Madeleine, Scottie takes her to his apartment.
When they are in the sequoia forest, Madeleine seems to disappear for a while, like an unearthly spirit. After his release from the mental institution, Scottie looks for Madeleine wherever he goes, like a morbid ghost hunter. It is ironic that he becomes haunted by the ghost of a woman who pretended to be haunted by another dead woman. Of course, when Scottie accidently sees Judy, thinking she is only a Madeleine look-alike and not part of the murder conspiracy, he wants to resurrect the dead Madeleine, forcing the now-in-love Judy to again play the same part. After Scottie finally recreates Madeleine by changing Judy’s make-up, hair color and style, and clothes, Novak materializes out of the hotel room's wall in a neon-sign-illuminated mist, like a ghost.

Scottie's obsession is a kind of madness. Gavin says there is madness in Madeleine's family, which sets the stage for the belief that she would commit suicide (her name even has the word "mad" in it). And, Scottie's madness leads to a sort of personality suicide as he realizes at the end, as Roger Ebert says in his book The Great Movies, that another man (Gavin) created the woman he wanted to forge, and thus Scottie's dream was not even his own. First he lost the person he wrongly thought was his ideal woman incarnate, and then he loses the woman he thought he created to be his perfect reproduction of his ideal. For Hitchcock, the desire to possess one's dream person is an impossible act and can only turn life into a nightmare.

Gus Cileone is a retired government employee who worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs. He has received several writing awards and has published two novels, A Lesson in Murder and Feast or Famine. You can visit his website at www.augustuscileone.com.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Twelfth Night...of Filming MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

By Kerri Grogan, BMFI Staff Assistant

What can you do with twelve days and a cast of actors you know and love? If you're Joss Whedon, the answer is Much Ado About Nothing, and it's playing here at BMFI until at least Thursday, July 11!

Joss Whedon's delightfully modernized take on Shakespeare was filmed in only twelve days at his own home, while he was on break from the set of Marvel's The Avengers. Whedon is no stranger to this sort of "Do It Yourself" film productionhis 2008 web-musical Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog was entirely self-created and funded during the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strikebut even he was intimidated to try filming a production of the magnitude of Much Ado in such a short window.

"I had to convince Joss that this was a good idea," Kai Cole, Joss's wife and a producer of the film, said in an interview with Women and Hollywood. "He was exhausted and more than a little skeptical." Shakespeare had long been something Whedon and Cole wanted to tackle. For years, Whedon and his friends (including Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof, who play Beatrice and Benedick in the film) had been doing play readings at his home, and it was one of these readings that inspired the production of the film.

 Joss Whedon and actress Amy Acker (Beatrice) on the set of Much Ado About Nothing. The entire production was filmed in Whedon's Beverly Hills home, which was designed by his architect wife, Kai Cole.

Much Ado about Nothing was filmed in black and white using only natural lighting, accentuated with mirrors and glass. In an article by Emma John, Whedon speaks to some of the challenges he faced by filming in such a do-it-yourself style: "I did everything they say don't do... Great idea to shoot next to a golf course, by the way. You know what they do on golf courses all day? Mow."

Did you know? In Shakespeare's original play, set in Italy, the character of Claudio is a young lord of Florence. Click here for details on how you can enter BMFI's raffle to win a seven-night stay for two in Florence–including $1500 in spending money!

Kerri Grogan is BMFI’s Staff Assistant. She studied animation at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and moonlights as a dice-rolling, video gaming geek, blogger, and comic artist.

Russ Collins: Close Encounters of the Implosion Kind

Russ Collins, the Director of the Art House Convergence conference and a fellow film exhibitor, wrote a thoughtful essay responding to the somewhat alarmist predictions for the future of the film industry recently espoused by Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Steven Soderbergh. It is an excellent assessment of our industry and the role of art house movie theaters within it, and I echo his views. We are pleased to share it with you here.
- Juliet Goodfriend, President, Bryn Mawr Film Institute

Close Encounters of the Implosion Kind
Guest post by Russ Collins, Director of the Art House Convergence

Gary Meyer, [co-director of the Telluride Film Festival,] wrote, "I do not like to be a doom and gloom guy but I think there are big changes afoot for commercial cinemas, but not the scenario predicted here: Steven Spielberg Predicts 'Implosion' of Film Industry."

Like Gary, I am not a doom and gloom guy. However, it is tempting for older cinema artists like Steven Spielberg and soon-to-retire artists like Steven Soderbergh (or maybe it’s just filmmakers named Steven!) to see gloom in clouds of change. Change is hard. It frequently makes us feel discouraged or unfairly challenged. The shifting sands of change can cause us to see threats everywhere and feel the world as we know it will end. However, maybe we feel this way because it’s true. The world as we know it will indeed come to an end because change is the only constant, and creativity in art, business and all things is frequently born from what might appear to be destructive forces brewed from dynamic change. It is a defining story of living; a baseline truth, an ever repeating cycle of human existence that the Hindu religion represents so effectively in the story of Shiva, whose joyous dance of destruction celebrates the cycle of creation, preservation, and dissolution.


Movie attendance at theaters in the USA by the late 1940s appeared stable at 4 BILLION admissions per year. By the early 1960s, movie attendance at theaters had fallen dramatically and re-stabilized at around 1 billion admissions per year—the theatrical audience was just 25% of what it had been 16 years earlier. It’s hard to imagine. We can feel better about movie attendance over the last 16 years because at about 1.4 billion annually, USA theatrical movie admissions have been fairly stable.

However, as a highly profitable, highly centralized business model, the movies—the pre-TV, Hollywood studio system heyday of the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s—died in the 1950s. Shiva danced and Hollywood’s heyday died as television became a mature mass media market. During the 1950s, television replaced movies as the mass market media phenomenon of the 20th century. So the truth is, since the 1950s, movies, meaning all movies shown in theaters, are not “mainstream.” Movies shown in theaters are merely a specialty market with larger market segments (Hollywood blockbusters—action blockbuster, comedy blockbusters, Black blockbusters, chick flick blockbuster, kid live-action blockbusters, kid animated blockbuster, etc.) and smaller market segments (Indie American, documentary, classic, foreign, Masterpiece Theatre style, etc.) and sub-segments (mumblecore, experimental, films by local filmmakers, silent-era, Black American Indie, Jewish, French, German, Polish, Chilean, Brazilian, Iranian, Burkina Fasoian, Senegalese, Palestinian, Indian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Scandinavian, Ethiopia, Nigerian, Mexican, Canadian, classic noir, restored films, screwball comedies, Marx Bros., Woody Allen, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Ford, Sturges, Fellini, Truffaut, Warhol, Waters, etc., etc. etc.). Today, broadcast television is flat on its back because pay-per-view, paid-legit streaming, pirate streaming, cable, computer, smart phone, tablets, etc. are the “television” of today.


During the second half of the 20th Century, the era in which TV has dominated, movie journalists and scholars seem to divide the post-Hollywood studio movie era into the following sub-eras:
  • The foreign film Art House / college movie society / Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll generation saves Hollywood world of the late ‘50s, ‘60s and on into the mid-‘70s;
  • The Indie Cinema / Burgeoning Home Video / Hollywood Summer Blockbuster world of the late-‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s;
  • The DIY-Mumblecore -Funny or Die / Pirate ethos / Digital Transition / Netflix queue / Hollywood Comic Book-Remake world of the early 21st century.
People in the movie business of different generations attach a “halcyon days” glow to different eras:
  • The Post-WWII-Early Baby Boomer generation seems to think the ‘60s youth reinvention of Hollywood is the halcyon era—folks like Robert Redford, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola.
  • The mid-to-late Baby Boomers and early GenXers appear to think that the Sundance/Miramax/New Line-Fine Line/Video Store/Indie Film Paradise of the ‘80s and ‘90s are the halcyon days—folks like Steven Soderbergh, Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch, Kevin Smith.
  • Probably folks like the Duplass Brothers, Greta Gerwig, Debra Granik, Benh Zeitlin, the Funny Or Die guys and gals, and other filmmakers finding success in the current era will look back at the twenty-00s as a halcyon era of celluloid dreams found during the digital transition. An era that provided limitless YouTube possibilities, when the number of community-based, mission-driven Art Houses cinemas were growing (due to the Art House Convergence!) and everyone had the ability to earn a post-graduate motion picture education at Netflix U.
So, instead of filmmakers and pundits making broad statements assuming that movie exhibition exists as one giant mainstream market; let’s instead think about the theatrical exhibition market place as the segmented and diverse market that it is—and has been for generations!


The media and the general public seem to easily accept sweeping unsubstantiated statements about the movie exhibition marketplace. However, people seem to have a more nuanced and complex understanding of the music market. No one thinks of Lady Gaga, Wynton Marsalis, and the Boston Symphony playing to a large, singular music market. People seem to understand that each of these artists have their niche. So if pundits or a prominent musician said that the music industry will collapse unless arena shows continue to be successful (by the way, there are fewer and fewer arena shows these days), that pundit or musician would be mocked by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. However, this is basically what Steven Spielberg said would happen to the film market. To illustrate this point I have replaced references to “movies,” in Steven Spielberg’s recent statement postulating that the movies will “implode,” with the appropriate musical reference:
“[Some ideas from young MUSICIANS AND MUSIC STUDENTS] are too fringe-y for MUSIC. That's the big danger, and there's eventually going to be an implosion — or a big meltdown. There's going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget CONCERTS are going to go crashing into the ground, and that's going to change the paradigm."
Mr. Spielberg is a great artist in my opinion. He has a peerless career. His artistry and craftsmanship was so resonant with broad audiences in the 1970s and 1980s that he was significantly responsible for creating the summer blockbuster dynamic (Jaws) that allowed for the development of “megabudget” movies. For him to say that young filmmakers and film students are “too fringe-y” is absolutely true—they always have been fringy (but some are not—which is also true). To say that “[an implosion is] going to change the paradigm” is also true, because something is always changing paradigms—clearly Spielberg was an innocent agent of paradigm change as a young filmmaker!

Think about the world that Mr. Spielberg came into as a young filmmaker in the late 1960s and 1970s. The old line Hollywood Studios were reeling. There were no megaplex theaters – the movie exhibition innovation of that era was multiplex cinemas in shopping malls with postage stamp size theaters and screens. These shopping mall cinemas were causing the few remaining movie palaces, as well as single screen neighborhood cinemas to be abandoned or “twinned” or “quaded.” In the 1970s there was no generally accessible internet or movie streaming. For all intents and purposes there were no video rental stores or home video. Mr. Spielberg’s career was established during a period of a HUGE paradigm shift. He benefited from the newly created blockbuster movie marketing. He profited from the soon-to-follow home video explosion. But, I have to imagine from Mr. Spielberg's point of view, the paradigm shift in the 1970s was just the new “normal,” a “halcyon era” from which we are straying in the 21st century because theatrical exhibition is tenuous (as it has been since the 1940s), the home video market has dried up and people are watching pirated movies on their phone. Spielberg’s coming of age era was for him the halcyon period that the 21st century “implosion” will cause to go “crashing into the ground.”

But he is wrong. As said previously, the market for movies is actually diverse and highly segmented—although from the top-down movie industry vantage point and media punditry you would not think this to be true. Would we really mourn for Mr. Spielberg or ourselves if Lincoln would have been made for cable or had played on public television? Is it bad for humanity that cable television is creating wonderful, resonant stories in long-form moving image series that people want to watch at home on TV (or streamed onto their computer)? I don’t think so, but it is a paradigm shift and it might affect people’s theatrical moviegoing habits. Televisions in people’s homes have had that effect for seven decades—it is not a new phenomenon.

As Art House cinema impresarios we need to focus on what WE can do at our theaters and in our communities. It is not productive for us to fret over what pundits say or about what well-meaning filmmakers like the Stevens—Spielberg and Soderbergh—say. We should fret about what we can do in our communities. What we can do to support filmmakers. What we can do to raise philanthropic support from our communities. What we can do to increase the appreciation of film as art and as a transformational form of creativity. We need to be professional and be constantly innovative and clearly focused on building robust cinema exhibition businesses in our communities. We do not need to worry about commercial megaplex movie theaters. They will find ways to make money or they will implode and be replaced by other ways to promote large scale, broadly targeted cinema.

Commercial movie theaters have had several “implosions” through the years and new, effective and profitable paradigms have emerged. 1920s-era Movie Palaces killed Nickelodeons, the mom-and-pop storefront cinemas that established movies as a viable art form and profitable market. Mom-and-pop theater owners were very upset and felt unfairly treated by the Movie Palace paradigm shift; it was a most tumultuous and difficult era in theatrical movie exhibition. Technology forced dynamic change as talking pictures made Movie Palaces inefficient. What emerged was the more efficient but less spectacular, single screen cinema-style theaters of the ‘30s and ‘40s. Television nearly killed single screen theaters and Movie Palaces, and the shopping mall multiplex theaters of the 1970s finished the job. Megaplexes killed multiplexes. Who knows, maybe megaplexes will be killed by high-priced deluxe cinemas with fine dining options—who cares! Maybe all commercial theaters in the future will be like IMAX theaters. The paradigm shift that takes down the megaplex is not a dynamic we as an Art House community will control. We can learn from and adapt to whatever changes may occur to the Megaplex paradigm. However, we do not control those changes so it is fruitless to fret about them. The cinema market is large and diverse and our job is to focus on our small but essential piece of the movie market—the community-based, mission-driven piece of exhibiting cinema to movie lovers in our home towns. As Ira Deutchman said to us at the [2013 Art House] Convergence, we must understand and embrace the fact that what we do is hard, but we should never take the easy path.


Being connected to your community, you have a role in defining that community. You can make sure your community values having an Art House. You must strive to be consistently innovative in how YOU run YOUR Art House; this will create consistent success. But it requires capital, hard work and the willingness to adapt to changes; changes in technology (digital cinema), in programming (day and date release with home viewing opportunities), in being an effective fundraising professional and a teacher of moving image aesthetics, history and practice. You are the impresario of the most important cultural product created in the American century. You deserve to be a key quality of life institution in your community.

Although the venal dynamics of Hollywood cause the Art House to be undervalued, we must remember that the Art House is vitally important because it is where the beating heart of cinema culture lives. We must keep that heart healthy. Let us execute our heart based Art House cinema in the best possible way, for its own sake and for the general health of our community and cinema art. And, please, let us not be afraid of change.

Change is inevitable. It is foolish to think that change will not happen. Change brings with it opportunity, and there is great opportunity for the Art House to flourish. Why? Because there are more movies made now than at any time in human history. This means all vital channels in which cinema can be presented can succeed—they won’t, but they can. And the community-based Art House has a distinct advantage because, as we have known for a little over 100 years ago, seeing a movie on a big screen, in a darkened room full of strangers is a profound and moving experience. Many humans, many of our neighbors seem to need the experience of gathering communally to experience stories and receive information. The Art House is that place, because it is the community’s living room, or better still, the communal campfire where people can learn, be entertained and transported by stories that are spun by that most brilliant of story tellers – the motion picture.

Keep the faith, Art House friends. You are the best—now let’s get better!

The Art House Convergence is an annual gathering of art house cinemas across the country. Russ Collins, the conference's director and the CEO of the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, was recently listed as one of IndieWIRE's top 40 influencers of 2013.