As the mercury (and humidity) rise in Illinois, I seek the shelter of dark, cool places like movie theaters. Even when the weather isn’t unbearable, I have a tendency to go to the movies. Luckily, the Art Theater Co-Op is showing a variety of film series to keep me coming back again and again.
Out of curiosity, I contacted Alicia Kozma, the Acting General Manager of the Art Theater Co-Op, about the prominence of film series this summer. Notably, I’ve attended the past three weekends of the Smart Kids film series because Saturday mornings were made for gorgeous and thought-provoking animation. However, I noticed the number of local sponsors involved with this particular film series and I wondered how that came to be. With questions in hand, I asked Kozma about this rise in series of films at the Art and what we have to look forward to for the rest of this year.
Smile Politely: The Art Theater Co-op seems to be hosting more film series with the Smart Kids film series and Big Screen Noir being the most notable currently. What prompted this initiative to focus more on a series of films with a similar topic?
Alicia Kozma: The Art has ongoing thematic series like Brilliant Corners (experimental film), Women On Top (films directed by women), and Essential Cinema that run throughout the year, but you are correct in pointing out that Smart Kids and Big Screen Noir are slightly different, much more akin to our Shocktober programming: a genre-based, shorter series of films. Smart Kids came about because it was something really important to the theater—bringing international children’s films to families that they aren’t often able to see. It allows us to introduce kids to a broader range of cinema than the same-old-same-old multiplex films, and helps them to develop an interest in global cinema from a young age while exposing them to different cultures, stories, and ideas. The Big Screen Noir series was also something we’ve wanted to do for a while. We often get requests to play individual film noir’s, but when you can package something as a series, audiences get used to the routine of those films playing regularly at the theater and so are more apt to include them in their weekly schedules, allowing them to catch more of the films than if they just play randomly throughout the year. It also gave us a chance to program some lesser-seen films, like Kiss Me Deadly (a truly great—and crazy—film) and Dog Day Afternoon.
SP: It’s great to see so much community support for the Smart Kids film series from local businesses and organizations like CU Pediatric Dentists and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. However, I noticed that some of the other film series are only supported by the Art Theater Co-op. Are you looking to partner with more local businesses and organizations to help fund future film series or promotions?
Kozma: We are always looking to expand our community partnerships! The theater’s integration with the Champaign-Urbana community is something we are very proud of, and the more partnerships we develop the more we are able to expand our programmatic offerings, especially when businesses and organizations underwrite series. We were really committed to showing the Smart Kids films for free, so as many families as possible could come to them. The only way we were able to do this was through the generous support of our community partners. We are so thankful to them.
SP: For the Smart Kids film series, the Art is also giving away free passes to the Sholem Aquatic Center to lucky winners who purchase a special medium popcorn. How did the partnership with the Champaign Park District’s Sholem Aquatic Center come about?
Kozma: One of our board members put in a significant amount of time and effort in helping us to partner with local businesses for Smart Kids support. She approached Sholem on our behalf and secured those passes.
SP: Are there any other big film series plans in the works for later this summer and into the fall?
Kozma: Big Screen Noir will run through September, with The Big Lebowksi ending the series — as only The Dude can — during the first week of September. Shocktober, our annual Halloween-themed programming returns throughout October. I can’t wait for Shocktober; my favorite month of the year! We have amazing films lined up, plus the return of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. We working on a Black Film Series and a Latin American Film Series, both tentatively in the fall. I know I’m probably a little biased, but we’ve got really great stuff happening at the Art!
This weekend the Smart Kids film series is taking a break, but if you missed seeing Hiyao Miyazaki’s classic My Neighbor Totoro (1988) last Saturday, you can catch the subtitled version on Thurs. July 21st at 10pm. For the kids at heart (and those of us who wanted a giant piano to dance on), Penny Marshall’s Big (1988) will be playing Wednesday July 27th at the Art as part of the Women on Top series. For the film buffs, Big Screen Noir kicks off on Friday July 29th with the classic thriller Cape Fear (1962). For the kids and kids at heart, the Smart Kids Film series returns Saturday July 30th with Kirikou and the Sorceress (1998) with free showings at 10am and 12pm. For the rest of us, keep your eyes and ears open for more fun film series coming up this fall at the Art Theater.