Cinema Center is a unique venue. For some, it's an occasional place to visit during a festival like Taste of the Arts; for others, it's a place for a date or an outing with friends. For me, Cinema Center has been a second home.
Movies have been key to my life's horizon for as long as I can remember. The film versions of Frankenstein and Dracula haunted my early dreams. Nothing can match the enduring thrill that I felt when seeing the television premiere of The Day the Earth Stood Still. Chicago stations showed all the old movies, classics and non-classics alike, and public television captivated me with the joys of silent films--not just the comedies of Keaton and Lloyd, but obscure dramas like The Tong Man. When I had a car, I regularly traveled to a small theatre in Hobart, Indiana, to catch new films not like those shown at the drive-ins.
It was in college, though, that I learned about the diverse, wondrous artistry of film. In Carbondale, at Southern Illinois University, a world of film was available both in town and campus. In town, one could see popular fare like Butch Cassidy and Cabaret, but also quirky films like Annie Hall and Nashville. On campus, though, it was a different world altogether. There I saw classics of German Expressionism (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari), the old serials that I saw first on TV (Flash Gordon and Commander Cody), thought-provoking animated films from Yugoslavia and Canada, experimental films (including those by John and Yoko), not to mention great foreign films by Bergman, Truffaut, and Goddard.
Fast forward through many years, and I find myself in North Manchester. Cinema Center does not have a permanent home, but I come to watch films in an auditorium in the art museum--at least when the demands of family and work make it possible. By the time I move to Fort Wayne, I am traveling to Cinema Center's Berry Street location every weekend and sometimes during the week. The movies it shows provoke conversations that begin in the lobby and end days later. I marvel at the diverse audiences that come to its various films. Special events occur in and around the movies: annual gatherings like Artament, occasional parties for films like A Prairie Home Companion or The Big Lebowski, monthly Movie Talk conversations about films (from the endearing Lars and the Real Girl to my beloved The Day the Earth Stood Still) and the issues they raise. All these yield a host of new friends and acquaintances, united by a love of movies. It was not long before I become a member, volunteer on a committee, and eventually join the Cinema Center board.
As a non-profit arts organization dedicated to film, Cinema Center is a unique treasure for Fort Wayne, northeast Indiana, and northwest Ohio. It supports local filmmakers by premiering their works. It helps build an intelligent audience for film and other arts through its programming and discussions. It crosses cultural boundaries by showing films from diverse communities and experiences, films not shown in commercial theaters.
These days, we can see all kinds of movies wherever we may be. Megaplexes show them at multiple times in many dimensions; Netflix and smartphones bring them to us on demand. To experience film, though, you have to sit in the dark, with an intimate crowd, in a theater staffed by friends and neighbors who love movies. Our neighborhood cafes, food trucks, and farmers' markets, encourage us and make it possible for us to eat local. For decades now, Cinema Center has made it possible for us to watch local. Where else can you stay at home, be among friends, and still see the world?
Help Cinema Center go digital by donating to the Digital Projector Fund today.
Leonard Williams is a Professor of Political Science at Manchester University.
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