"My favorite seat" by Betty E. Stein

My Cousin Ann lives on the East Coast and has the habit of suggesting films I should see if they ever get to Fort Wayne. It is with the greatest of pleasures, I assure you, that I have informed her time after time the film is currently here or I see it will be here next week or yes, I really did enjoy it. You see, we have the Cinema Center.

A long-time member of Cinema Center, I have availed myself of the great pleasure of seeing films the "big houses" won't bother with. Now I even have a favorite seat: because I use a walker, I have found a comfortable spot where my walker can sit in an empty space next to me, and I don't have the panicky feeling of what would I do in an emergency. The walker is right there! And the theatre is small enough that sitting back there poses no visual or audio problem.

Working with management is also a gratifying experience. At times we have worked cooperatively to bring in films for special events and permitting discussion time at the films' conclusions.They have been successful undertakings. What more can I ask?

So if the Cinema Center has a problem and needs new equipment, you will find me being a cheerleader. This isn't asking for plush-lined seats or velvet-swathed walls. It is asking for equipment that is the result of tremendous technological advancements. We upgrade computers and get new iPads, and now we need up-to-date equipment for seeing films at Cinema Center. Where's the problem?

Please contribute. I may even ask Cousin Ann to help...

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

Betty E. Stein, a Fort Wayne native, is a columnist for the News-Sentinel, a retired educator (kind of retired), a movie maven and the mother of movie mavens.

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"A second home" by Leonard Williams

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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"This downtown treasure" by Geoff Paddock

The Cinema Center is a wonderful addition to downtown Fort Wayne, which is becoming more vibrant each year. I have been attending events there for over 20 years, and I am always impressed with how beautiful and well run the facility is.

Recently, it was announced that the Cinema Center will be embarking on a capital campaign to raise money to purchase a new digital projector for the theater. Updating this equipment is vital to the continued long term success of the Cinema Center, and I am pleased to see this effort going forward. I know it will be supported by the business community, area foundations, and many citizens who attend events there on a regular basis.

The Cinema Center is located in the Fifth Councilmanic District. It is vital that we work together to keep this treasure downtown.

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

Geoff Paddock is Councilman in Fort Wayne's Downtown Fifth District and the Executive Director of Headwaters Park. 

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"A more creative city" by former mayor Paul Helmke

Fort Wayne is fortunate to have Cinema Center as part of its vibrant arts community. Films that might not be available in the large commercial theatres are regularly available in their attractive and comfortable downtown venue. I have fond memories of movies there - from Neil LaBute's "In the Company of Men" (filmed in Fort Wayne) and talking with the writer after the show, to Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris." The Cinema Center is known for screening interesting and provocative films and helping make Fort Wayne a better, and more creative, city.

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

Paul Helmke is a former mayor of Fort Wayne and director of the Civic Leaders Living-Learning Center at the Indiana University School of Public & Environmental Affairs. 


"Because it's ours" by Danee Pye

Friends, there’s a lot happening in Fort Wayne, and it’s exciting. Sometimes it’s hard to know which new, shiny thing to focus on. And when you’ve got new farmers markets to visit, new restaurants to try, and new trails to ride, it’s easy to forget about the things that have been around awhile.
Cinema Center is one of those things you shouldn’t forget about. Forgetting about Cinema Center, especially right now, will mean the loss of one of our greatest community assets.

Let me explain.

Before settling in Fort Wayne, Brown and I were keepin’ it weird in Austin, Texas. And after my four years in ATX I was ready to get out. Aside from friends and breakfast tacos, the only thing I really miss about living in Austin is the AlamoDrafthouse. Once you’ve experienced a movie at Alamo, you’ll never want to set foot in a mainstream movie theater again.

I say ‘experienced” rather than “watched” for good reason—the success of the Alamo comes from paying attention to the entire phenomenological experience of going to a theater to watch a movie. They've figured out how to serve amazing food and drinks without distracting from the film. They tailor the pre-show videos and entertainment to the film or the event you are about to watch. Sometimes it's bubbles, sometimes a guy in a jet pack, but at an Alamo event there's almost always something you didn't expect. It’s not just what happens on the screen, it’s what happens leading up to, during, and after the film that matters most.

But the Alamo isn’t the only theater where I’ve had unforgettable film experiences. In college, I stood in line with a dozen “Dudes” in bathrobes waiting to see The Big Lebowski at the Act II in Berkeley, CA. I ate pizza on a sofa while watching Melinda and Melinda at the Parkway in Oakland. Brown and I shared gourmet cake balls while we watched Circo from one of 50 insanely comfortable seats at Austin’s Violet Crown. And unlike any film I’ve seen in some generic multiplex, my memories of these films will always be tied to the theater I experienced them in.

And then, of course, there’s Cinema Center.

If you haven’t been lately, you've been missing out. They’ve hosted awesome movie events like Braineaters’ Ball, a Hitchcock-themed Oscar Party, a Spinal Tap Party, a poetry reading for On the Road, a hot dog night with Bravas, and the Midnight Movie series, just to name a few.  Want to watch a movie outside and eat a burger? They've got that, too. And, with Jonah at the helm, I get the sense that this is just the beginning of bigger and better things to come. Or at least it could be.

But Cinema Center needs your support.

Support can take many forms. The most obvious and most immediately helpful way to support Cinema Center is in the form of a donation to the Digital Projector Fund. But it doesn’t have to stop there. Subscribe to the mailing list. Join the Facebook group. Go to the next event that piques your interest. Donate a Facebook status or Tweet by linking to the Digital Project Fund. Or better yet, become a member.

To invest in Cinema Center is to invest in Fort Wayne’s most valuable resource—community.
It’s no secret that most of today’s movie watchers are dissatisfied with the theater experience and prefer watching elsewhere. But make no mistake—we’re all still watching movies and not just the blockbusters. As the late Roger Ebert pointed out, “The myth that small-town moviegoers don’t like ‘art films’ is undercut by Netflix’s viewing results.” But today’s audiences want more than just the film; they want a positive communal experience.

This communal aspect is, I think, Cinema Center’s greatest asset. It is also its greatest source of potential. We are only seeing the beginning of what Cinema Center has to offer, and it would be a shame not to have a place that brings people together in the experience of film the way the Alamo has done for Austin.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that Cinema Center become a carbon copy of the Alamo. They are different theaters. They serve different communities. They have different missions. But, with our support, Cinema Center can fulfill its goal of becoming, “a wildly popular destination in Fort Wayne’s revitalized arts campus downtown — attracting diverse new audiences, partners and sponsors; showcasing the true artistry of film; and offering people the best moviegoing experience in the region.”

It won’t be the Alamo.

It will be better...

because it’s ours.

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

Danee Pye is a Cinema Center Board Member, a freelance advertising copywriter, and a sometimes blogger at daneepye.com and pyecommabrown.com
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