“A Kong-sized memory” by Kathy Bock


This coming Saturday, August 24th, at 10 p.m., Cinema Center (in cooperation with Shaffer Multimedia) will offer a free screening of the classic movie King Kong (1933) on the front of the Arts United Center building. For Kathy Bock, this outdoor venue brings back a fond movie memory.


One summer night when I was about 6, I saw the classic movie King Kong (1933) outdoors under the
stars. It wasn’t at a drive-in theater, though. Let me explain with a little story.

Back in those days (the 1960s), my parents rented a small cottage on Corey Lake in Michigan where we spent our summers. I loved it there — swimming, skiing, fishing for bluegill…doing all the fun things people do at a lake. But for my family and our lake gang, the real excitement of summer happened on the weekends, when Jack Cronk blew in.

I say “blew in” because Jack always arrived in swirling cloud of dust. I can still see his sparkly, green-finned convertible roaring down the dirt road toward our cottage every Friday night, signaling the official start of the weekend.

Although he wasn’t a large man, Jack was larger than life. He was big-hearted, adventurous, and did everything on a grand scale. Instead of just lighting a grill like a normal person, for instance, Jack would pull out a fire-breathing blowtorch that made all the women scream and the dogs run like hyenas for cover.

But I digress. One night, King Kong was being shown on TV, and Jack decided the whole gang should watch it together, outside by the old apple tree. (Was this even possible? My young brain could hardly fathom the idea of TV al fresco.) But Jack hauled out a portable black & white TV set and placed it on top of a small pop shed. (In hindsight, I realize the actual name of this structure, which housed a large refrigerator, was probably “beer shed,” but hey, I was 6. I had other priorities.)

Anyway, Jack did some fiddling with the TV’s rabbit ears and voilà, a young girl was suddenly transported across the ocean to the fictional Skull Island in search of a giant ape named Kong. I was mesmerized. The ominous drumming, the suspenseful music (by Max Steiner), the groundbreaking stop-motion animation (by Willis O’Brien), the masterful storytelling — it all worked its magic on me.

But I can’t underestimate the power of the venue that night. For me, one of the reasons that movie was so memorable has to do with the circumstances under which I saw it: I was outdoors, surrounded by family and friends, in the dark of night. This wasn’t just a movie — it was an event.

Jack Cronk, like the promoter Carl Denham in King Kong, understood the power of spectacle. He knew this movie was too big to be seen on a small screen. And while he couldn’t enlarge his TV set for us, he did the next best thing. He made our “theater” as big and wondrous as possible. There was popcorn (and undoubtedly beer) as a small group of friends formed a semicircle of lawn chairs to watch this classic tale of beauty and the beast, inexplicably framed by the beauty of a Michigan night sky.

This was movie magic, pure and simple, and I’ll never forget it. And now you have a chance to experience it, too. This coming Saturday, August 24th, as part of Taste of the Arts, Cinema Center will show King Kong for free at 10 p.m. across the front of the Arts United Center building. Grab your lawn chairs, folks, and come on down.  

If you’ve never seen the original King Kong before (or even if you have), I can’t imagine a better way to watch it now. Many of the best scenes are set outdoors at night, making an outdoor night venue the perfect way to experience this film. And don’t forget, this is a movie about a gigantic 25-foot ape. Doesn’t he deserve to be seen on the big screen? (Seriously, you may never get another chance. I’ve been waiting 50 years for this one!)

If you come, I promise you the experience will be something you’ll remember all your life. And you know I’ll be there, giggling like a kid over the size of Kong’s head, and remembering with great respect the man who first introduced me to the magic of movies one dark summer night a long time ago, on a small flickering screen.

I’ll save a seat for you, Jack.

Jack Cronk in front of the old pop shed. 



Kathy Bock is a freelance advertising copywriter, Cinema Center board member, and chair of the Events committee. She’s seen all the remakes of King Kong but still prefers the original, which she’s watched too many times to mention (including a weeklong “kong-athon” when the two-disc Collector’s Edition came out in 2005 and she hardly slept). Kathy has never seen the film on the big screen and is praying that it doesn’t rain on Saturday. 
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"The Gift" by Ruth Langhinrichs



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Cinema Center! 


Thank you, Cinema Center. Words, however, are not thanks enough. Neither is the most creative of fund raisers. Or the most well-written of  grants. Or even the most successful of impromptu appeals for a necessary item of equipment. Let's express our gratitude and delight in the gifts of Cinema Center with our continuous financial support and planned giving.

[Although Cinema Center has met the initial goal for the Digital Projector Fund, you can still donate to help cover additional costs associated with the update as well as ongoing improvement of the facilities.]


Ruth Langhinrichs, a founding board member, has been a Cinema Center supporter for 37 years. She's also a friend of Kathy Bock who challenged her to write a Haiku to sum up her feelings about Cinema Center.



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"Cinema Center Strikes Back" by Jonah Crismore




If the different acts of my life played out like a movie, some of the best scenes would have happened at Cinema Center. There have been scenes that provided a nice surprise twist, such as the time my wife and I attended a screening of what we thought would be Lonesome Jim, but because of misreading the show times were instead treated with Joyeux Noel, a multi-language, World War I-set Christmas film. It has become one of our favorites. It is also the type of film we could have only seen at Cinema Center.

There have been soaring highs, such as the time I saw Duck Soup for the first time, much too late in my life (probably my late teens) at a comedy film festival at Cinema Center, and there have been devastating lows—I am still trying to recover from Blue Valentine.

For me, film is not a way to pass a couple of hours, and I will never identify with those who claim going to the movies is just a good escape. When I am truly honest with myself, I do not even feel film is a popular art form, no matter what my brain may be saying. Everything I experience is through the prism of how it would work in a movie. As far as I am concerned, with no sense of irony or hyperbole, film is life.

Sometimes I wonder if it is a life that I have chosen, but I would prefer it to have chosen me. And, I believe fully that it began to choose me as a teenager going to films at Cinema Center, watching movies I was probably not quite experienced enough to understand, and being exposed to a far wider world that I had no idea existed.

It is true I have always enjoyed films and the experience of watching them in a theater with my fellow cineastes. The first film I can remember seeing in a theater was Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and I left it with two inescapable loves: time travel stories and going to the movies. But as I got older, it was at Cinema Center screenings where I have felt inspired to go out and be part of the act of making films.

Without Cinema Center, I would not have attended film school, an endeavor that would take my wife and me all over the country, and return to the place it all began, on the corner of Clay Street and Berry. If I was instructing my screenwriting students, I would say this is the point where the story should end, that balance has returned and the protagonist (me) is much better off than when the story began. I wasn’t lying; I look at everything in relation to how it would play out in a film.

I am much better off than when I left to attend film school in Chicago. I now have the best job in the city. I actually get paid to bring films, important works that would otherwise not be seen in the area, to my home community. But, the story cannot end there. The film industry is changing, and during this first year at the helm of Cinema Center, I have had to deal with the reality that the theater must convert to digital projection in order to remain open.  

If we do not make this conversion other young men and women will not have that special place in the community where they can experience films that move them, that inspire them to pick up a camera and start shooting. They will not fall in love with Wong Kar-wai films on the big screen, or learn a little more about everyday life with Woody Allen, or be exposed to the greats who have been long gone such as Ford, Welles, Pickford, and Hitchcock.

If we go back to the assertion that film is life, think of this next stage for Cinema Center as its sequel of sorts. And, this time, you have a chance to play a large role in making sure this sequel is even better than the original.

Help Cinema Center go digital by donating to the Digital Projector Fund today.



Jonah Crismore is Cinema Center's Executive Director and has hopes of someday being an advisor to the restoration of any of Orson Welles' many lost films.








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"A little bit of us would go with it" by Kathy Weiss


In 1989 I spent a semester in London as a social work student. When I had free time I went to the cinema and saw many wonderful films…documentaries and indie films, obscure films.

When I returned to Fort Wayne I was in withdrawal. Where would I get my “fix” of smart, funny, controversial films? Certainly not at the big box theatres. They had the run-of-the-mill “blow them up” movies that appealed to the common denominator…money making.

The thoughtful films were to be found only at Cinema Center.

Cinema Center is a gem in the midst of Fort Wayne. Only at Cinema Center can one find films to stir the soul and mind, films to provoke, to take us from the ordinary. Only at Cinema Center can we find films that lift us up or provoke us into thought.

If Cinema Center is to carry on our spirit it is up to us to support its spirit. Without the digital projector Cinema Center would go dark. If that were to happen a little bit of us would go with it.

Keep the lights on. Keep the spirit going. Keep our spirits going.




Kathi Weiss is a cinephile who supports her habit by teaching psychology at Ivy Tech.
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"Finding my community" by Kathy Bock


Some people have big, loving families. Some have church. Others have clubs and social groups. Me? I’ve always had Cinema Center. It’s the one place I go to feel connected. To be among like-minded individuals. To find a true sense of community. (Which, come to think of it, is kind of odd for a place where everyone sits alone in the dark.)

But Cinema Center is more than great movies. Shoot, if that’s all you want, you can just plant yourself on the couch and hit “Play.” And quite often I do, getting more than my money’s worth out of Netflix, DVDs and umpteen on-demand options. But comfy as my couch is, I always come back to Cinema Center.

Why? Maybe it’s because I like walking in the door and being handed a tub of popcorn by Caroline (who knows I’m a member and I take my popcorn plain).

Maybe it’s because Cinema Center is intimate, friendly and always costs less than the big theater chains. Actually, if you’re a member, it’s crazy cheap – just 5 bucks and the popcorn is free. And that’s not even counting the scads of free films Cinema Center shows as a public service to the community. What other theater does that?

Then there are the events. Nobody throws a party like Cinema Center. I’m thinking Good Burger Night, Artament, Braineaters’ Ball, the recent Hitchcock-themed Oscar Party, a poetry night for On the Road… Honestly, every time I check the website, there’s something quirky and fun coming up. Right now I’m over the moon about Cinema Center showing the original King Kong outdoors on the side of the Arts United building this summer. How cool will that be?

Of course, one of the main reasons I come to Cinema Center is because it’s home for me. This is where I belong. I first attended a Cinema Center movie back in 1979 when I was fresh out of college. I’d just moved to town and was looking for a place to go on a Saturday night so I wouldn’t feel so alone. I found it at Cinema Center.

In those days, the movies were shown at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House on a finicky projector that made a lot of racket and broke down with alarming regularity, but that didn’t deter me. I’d found my people – and my kind of movies: North by Northwest, 8 ½, Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, Harold and Maude, A Place in the Sun, Throne of Blood, My Dinner with Andre, La Strada… Where else but Cinema Center was I going I see great films like these projected on a big screen? And where else could I go by myself and still be among friends?

Over the years, Cinema Center has grown and changed with the times, but it still shows the best movies in town and it’s still my favorite place to go on a Saturday night.

A few years back, I decided to throw myself a big 50th  birthday bash. So naturally, I rented out Cinema Center  and invited 100 of my closest friends to see Moonstruck, my favorite film. It was as close as I’ve come to a full-circle moment, having so many friends and relatives in the place where my adult life really began – the place that’s always been like a second home to me. (I get a little verklempt just thinking about it.)

But now, I understand that Cinema Center is threatened. If we don’t go digital, we go dark. Simple as that. We must raise $50,000 to buy a digital projector or it’s lights out. The industry is forcing the change, but it’s the community that must come together to save Cinema Center. I’m confident we can.

Won’t you please give generously to Cinema Center’s Digital Projector Fund? Do it for the arts. Do it for Fort Wayne. Do it for movie lovers like you and me, so together, we’ll always have that home in the dark.

See you there some Saturday night, okay?



Kathy Bock is a freelance advertising copywriter and three-time Cinema Center board member. She wants readers to know that even though she favors Saturday night screenings, Cinema Center is open seven days a week and now offers discounted weekday matinees. 
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