Behind the projector, behind the bar, behind the scenes, Ciné's general manager Jeff Bennett keeps things moving. Ciné is one of the few venues in Georgia that can show 35mm film, though most are digitally projected.
Ciné is one of those extras that enhance our community. But why? We have nearly 30 other screens full of car chases, explosions and “love that alters not when it, like, alteration finds.” Why does Ciné merit our support, especially when we have so many people here living in poverty?
The answer to that question goes to the very core of what movies can do for us as human beings: help us “see life steadily and see it whole.”
Ciné shows some popular first-run movies, but most of the films that come to Ciné, you’ve never heard of them. They don’t have big advertising budgets; they may be foreign (with subtitles—a boon for us hard-of-hearing); they’re serious, or sometimes not. The films that come to Ciné are here because somebody has a story to tell, and that story can show us more about ourselves and about human life than we can find out from the average romcom. You don’t even need to know what’s on. Just show up and buy a ticket to any movie showing at Ciné, and watch a good movie—sometimes a great movie.
The Ciné story is inspiring. Film lover Brigitta Hangartner bought the old Snow Tire recapping building and poured money into its transformation to become a state-of-the-arthouse movie theater. Recently came the time that Hangartner needed to sell the building to recoup her investment, and Ciné scrambled to raise the money for a down payment—and succeeded! So, now, thanks to all who donated and to the confidence of the local folks at First American Bank, Ciné owns the building and therefore has the ability to make long-range plans and commitments. Even so, Ciné presently makes 70% of its income from operations—from people buying tickets, popcorn and drinks and renting the facilities—and, as always, Ciné is dependent on friends and foundations to make up the gap and even allow Ciné to look forward to improvements that will strengthen its ability to sustain the flow of quality films in Athens. And it’s not just a movie theater—it’s also a center of civic activities, meetings, art shows, educational outings, social occasions and gatherings for conversation and a drink or a cup of coffee.
We can all help that bottom line and ourselves by seeing more of these great movies with the delish popcorn and drinks—not to mention the cookies. Above and beyond that simple act of going to the movies, we can contribute something to sustain Ciné.
And our contributions don’t just help Ciné hang on—we help Ciné invest in improvements that will streamline its operations. For instance, there is great need to turn the present lab area into a third theater. Why? Executive Director Pam Kohn explained a little bit of insider information about the movie business. The two theaters we have now limit Ciné’s ability to expand its offerings. Distributors sometimes require that a film cannot share a theater with another film, which crowds the schedule of the other theater and crowds out local films or others too quirky or unknown or experimental.
A third theater would open up Ciné’s schedule with a lot more control over what it offers and less control by the distributors.
The distributors control the business. Kohn credits Ciné’s booking agent—a guy named Larry Thomas in Minneapolis, who has been with them from the beginning—for running interference, feeding us quality films and alerting Ciné to little-known gems.
The bottom line is the bottom line. Ciné is building a more professional staff, has beefed up its board of directors and developed a long-range plan, but our local cinema still needs our help. They’re trying to hit 1,000 members by the end of the year, and they need people who can make a three or five-year commitment and people who can afford to become underwriters. But whatever we can give will help Ciné make ends meet and go beyond that to achieve financial independence by growing its operating income. Our donations extend its reach and diversify its customers.
Donating to Ciné by whatever method and whatever amount is quick and easy. Just go to athenscine.com and click at the top on “membership” or “donate” (or both), and you can find out how to contribute in a way that suits your budget. And remember, every dollar we can give Ciné keeps vital cinema alive, enhancing Athens and our lives here.