Today at The Clinton: Thursday, Jul 19

Arthouse Convergence Day One

Portland has more arthouse screens than any other city in the country per capita. Do we really need another one, or does the Clinton Street Theater serve a different segment of Portland?

I'm here in Midway, Utah, about one hour south of Salt Lake City, and a short drive from Park City where the Sundance Film Festival will start on Thursday. This is the sixth or seventh year of the Arthouse Convergence Confernce; year one there were 26 attendees--this year 410 people are registered.

I'm here because I really do want to make the Clinton Street Theater the best theater for our community. Portland has more arthouse screens than any other city in the country per capita. Do we really need another one, or does the Clinton Street Theater serve a different segment of Portland? I believe there are a lot of people whose film and community needs aren't being met by the other theaters in Portland, and that's why Roger and I made the decision to purchase it 18 months ago.

In my first workshop two bullit points stuck with me:

Instead of trying to get butts in seats, we need to work inteligently to engage our community to support excellent cinema. Well, my definition of "excellent cinema" differs from many of the folks here, who emphasize the "art" in arthouse. I love film as a medium of creative expression. Film history, the art of filmmaking and all that entails--what I appreciated in the Paradise Trilogy was the great care Ulrich Seidl took in every single shot so that visually one frame could say more than a thousand words. But Portland has several places where you can go for "art" films. Do films that are story or "cause' centric have a place? I think in our community that's a given. Consider the different groups we support from snowboarders to environmentalists, from feminists and sex workers to the experimental film and video artists. Some of it is "artful" in the usual sense of the term, and all of it is "excellent" when it supports community building, appreciation and respect for diversity, and encourages the yearning for creative expression within each and every one of us.

As a theater we need to operate the cinema like a credible, well funded, local cultural institution. The Clinton Street Theater needed some rebuilding of its reputation when Roger and I took it on. No sound, no heat, not enough involvement from the community at large. We've come a long way from the early days though we still have a lot of work to do. Sometimes the theater is empty, and I have patrons ask, "are you guys all right? I would hate to see you go under." It is hard at times to make it work, but so many of you have stepped up to help, either by showing up for work parties, or suggesting films and events, for buying a weekend pass when you know you're only get to one or two of the screenings. So the Clinton Street Theater is re-emerging as a credible institution, although well funded is not words that I would use. I am proud of the fact that we are local and we support the local culture. That means there's a place for sports enthusiasts and KBOO members and hipsters and anti-hipsters and Santas, yes, we support the Portland Santa culture.

This wasn't a point of discussion, but a great idea--a walk/bike discount. What do you think about that?

More tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

Lani Jo