Back when I was interminably flunking out of graduate school in New York City, I lived near both the Thalia and the New Yorker movie houses. Both ran classic old films, but I rarely went to see them. I couldn’t make myself study enough, but I wouldn’t allow myself to go to the movies. I didn’t really understand what I was missing. I didn’t know why those films were classic; I thought they were just old, in black and white, in foreign languages, curiosities but not compelling. What an education flashed by me unseen in those two cinemas while I remained in the dark!
Thanks to Ciné, I get the chance every now and then to see one of those classic films, but more importantly, I get to see the new classics as they are being made, and I get to understand why they matter, what film can do to inform as well as entertain.
I’m beginning to see that good film is like good literature and good food: it takes more concentration and effort, but the payoff is tremendous in sustenance. That’s fine, you might say, but if you want to watch a gloomy foreign film, why not just watch it at home on your own big screen? Why does it take a village?
That’s a good question. I guess the short answer is that films are made to be seen on a large screen, larger than anybody has at home except the President. So, it takes a theater, just like live music needs some kind of music hall, and movies, like music and religion, for that matter, are enhanced when experienced in the company of others.
Okay, you might retort. We’ve got over 40 big screens in Athens where you can go see a movie, why do we need Ciné, too? I assume you’re asking that question just for the sake of argument. Most of the multiplex films are the formulaic, teen-driven action plots that are about a comic book version of life. Most of the Ciné films, no matter how funny or how serious, are about life as it is lived, life that we need help figuring out in order to be really alive: a matter of life and death. In addition, Ciné is the site for any number of festivals showing films—French, Jewish, local and others that we’d never see anywhere else.
So, here’s the pitch. Theaters like Ciné have prided themselves on their ability to show all these movies on 35-millimeter film, with its capacity for rich colors along with its snap, crackle and pop—like vinyl. Almost overnight, the movie industry caught on that they could produce all their films digitally and save the tremendous cost of making, copying, shipping and storing celluloid. Consequently, all new films will be digital only, and the old classics will be increasingly difficult to obtain. Every movie house in the country has been faced with the necessity of buying modern digital projection equipment. Ciné, always in a financial tight spot, quickly must come up with $160,000 to buy and install state-of-the-art digital projection equipment.
Fortunately, last year Ciné was reorganized as a nonprofit, which gives us all the opportunity to help our own art house cinema remain viable. Ciné’s board of directors has launched a Kickstarter online fundraising campaign, “Join Our Digital Evolution,” to raise $60,000 toward the cost of the digital equipment. You can go to that Kickstarter page to find out more and to contribute:
If Ciné can’t make this switch to digital projection, it can’t stay in business. If we lose Ciné, we take a giant step back from the cosmopolitan environment that makes Athens special and attractive to people seeking a certain necessary level of culture. If that’s baloney to you, okay. But if you know what I’m saying, you know the importance of going to Kickstarter, where you can read more about all this and kick in some money to keep our art house cinema an integral part of our community. If you let Athens lose Ciné, “…you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”