Still in its early days but new Art Theater Co-op is going strong

Still in its early days but new Art Theater Co-op is going strong

I have to admit. I was a little skeptical that this town could create and then support an art house cooperative.

But it’s happening. And it’s been a success so far.

At a meeting on Sunday for owners, Art Theater Co-op general manager Austin McCann and board president David Thiel reported that the new co-operative, which got underway in early September, has turned a profit of $23,000 so far. It would have been more if the theater had received its liquor license earlier than Oct. 29.

They also reported that the Art Theater Co-op has 1,287 owners so far (including me). Some own more than one share; a share costs only $65 — once. It’s a nice feeling to walk into the Art in downtown Champaign and realize, “I own this.” Or, I guess, “I co-own this!” (Not the building, the business; David Kraft owns the building and the Art Theater Co-op is subleasing from former Art Theater operator Sanford Hess.)

Anyway, the Art Theater Co-op is now entertaining three bids for a new digital projector system, the cost of which has or threatens to put a lot of other art movie houses out of business.

The Art wants a system that will allow it to show 3-D and 35mm movies in addition to digital ones; have seven surround-sound speakers; and have closed captions for the deaf.

Because of that, the bids vary wildly. But that’s to be expected, considering the Art’s request for proposals. The Art had hoped to install the new system this month; that will probably happen in August.

Also coming up, the 100th anniversary on Nov. 12, 2013, of the Art Theater. The Art Theater doesn’t know yet what it will be do but there will be a big celebration, perhaps a hootenanny, someone said.

McCann, who’s in charge of programming, also talked about that, saying the Art basically shows first-run and low-budget indie films, second-runs, old favorites and documentaries. He’s put on two documentary film festivals already and plans one for this weekend: World Cinema Week at the Art, featuring “A Royal Affair,” “Tabu,” “Holy Motors,” “Barbara” and “In Another Country.”

And on Thursday, March 7, the Art will screen the classic “Nosferatu” by D.W. Murnau, with a live score performed by the Andrew Alden Ensemble.

McCann recently pushed late-night offerings from 10 p.m. to midnight and formed a committee to help him come up with programming in that regard. Those showings, of course, appeal to younger generations of filmgoers.

A nine-member board, elected by owners, operates the theater along with McCann. Four seats are up for election this year, as some current board members’ terms are up and another moved out of state.

The current board members are Luke Boyce, Joanna Ebizie, Ben Galewsky, Colleen Gibbons, Tim Hartin, David Thiel, David Ward, Penny Watkins-Zdrojewski and Audrey Wells.

Ebizie moved out of state. The others whose terms are up are Gibbons, Watkins-Zdrojewski and Hartin. Hartin seeks re-election.

Other candidates are Richard Balsbaugh, Mark Rhodes, Liam Sean O’Sullivan, David Weisiger, Isaac Galvan, Nina Paley, Dan Schreiber and Robert Gable.

Voting ends at midnight March 17.


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