Last week I got an opportunity to interview Andrew Greenblatt, the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Film Society, and chat with him a bit about their plans for The Roxy Theater. Ever since they announced they were taking over the space in Rittenhouse Square last October, I have heard a lot of things about what folks thought The Roxy would eventually come to be.
It was a great conversation. Read on and find out what the future holds in store for not only this great little theater, but The Philadelphia Film Society as well.
I know there were some rumors going around during the Philadelphia Film Festival as to when The Roxy would be finished, care to give us an update?
The target month is March, which is really only 7 weeks away now.
There has been a lot more work than we anticipated; I guess this goes with any construction project. We have been still raising money as well, so we have been slowed down a bit by that and we have a lot more to go.
But I would still love to get it open in March, so that is my target, sometime in March hopefully.
I know you have said The Roxy will be the home for both the Philadelphia Film Society and Festival, but exactly does that entail exactly?
The Roxy will operate as a typical first-run theater, so it will be just showing two films at time. It may do split-runs as well; we will have to see how much we can do that with smaller films.
But we will have one off events, some educational classes, we will look to do midnight screenings and we will also be doing some retrospectives as well. Stuff that we have spent the last three years doing at other venues; we are going to try and do at The Roxy as much as possible.
Now there could still be some bumps with that. We don’t know how distributors are always going to respond to having interruptions in their runs. I guess it depends on the size of the distributor, but we are going to work with them to make it possible.
That is on the outset what we are going to do with The Roxy.
Then of course we will use it for the festival, we will be using both screens and it will probably be the primary ticketing outpost leading up to the festival. We really hope all this will bring some other stuff to that neighborhood as well.
With almost no venues in the city currently exhibiting film, will that be a priority for The Roxy?
We hope so. That is the intention.
We own three 35mm projectors.
I believe in 35mm and I know they have to be reel to reel, because after 2013 you’re never going to be allowed to platter again. Once they don’t make new film on 35mm, no rep is going to let you platter and that is fine, because you can ruin a film and there is not enough of them.
So the limitations we have at The Roxy, if you have ever seen the space is the size. They are really narrow and long rooms. This is fine for a throw, but it means you have a small projection booth. The question we are facing now is how do you fit a DCP digital projector in with two 35mm projectors, a winding station and everything else you need to be a proper reel-to-reel?
We are working on it. We are seeing if there are ways to enlarge the booth or see if these new DCP projectors coming out in February will be a lot smaller and still have the quality we demand from a projector.
That is a really long way to say that we are trying, we intend to have 35mm there. I believe strongly in, Mike believes strongly in it and we agree that there is a need for it.
What are some of the biggest challenges you think The Roxy will face, when it’s finally up and running?
One of the greatest challenges is we will have to combat its old image of it being very run down and not being a place you want to go. I think the rumors about it exceeded the actual functionality of the place. Its not anywhere close to being said it was in perfect condition but was a watchable venue.
I think people enjoy seeing a film there, but it was limited. For the last 2-3 years all they showed there was Warner Brothers films. Sure you could have watched Argo there and it would have been enjoyable, but I don’t know why you would watch The Dark Knight Rises there.
It’s not a huge venue; I think its ideal for showing art house fare, more independent fare, documentaries, and experimental films. I think it works a lot better for that and since its only roughly 100 seats a theater I think you can take those risks as well.
But the challenge is to convince people to come back and experience that and to take the risk with some of the films we are going to show. At the festival we show 100 films and we show everything from what we think are the upcoming indie Oscar movies to really obscure stuff.
We want to do the same thing at The Roxy, but it will be a risk.
So what’s in the future for the Philadelphia Film Society?
The Roxy is the biggest thing on my mind right now. There is so much to do, so much to raise and so much to accomplish over there and we want to get it open as quickly as possible so we can have people enjoy it. When we do open it, its not going to be finished.
We are going to get the theaters done that is our top priority. Then we are going to have to do something to the lobby and something to the lounge. I would love to get a liquor license in there as well. All these things I want to be done, but when we open it will probably be just the theaters.
You asked what we had on tap and number one would have to be The Roxy, but we also have the music festival coming in the middle of April from the 11th to the 14th.
We are currently programming that right now. Mike and I both leave for Sundance on Thursday; they have a bunch of music films there. We are anxiously awaiting the SXSW announcements, so we can see what they have and Hot Docs and True/False announcements, they have a lot of music between them and we are going to see what we can bring in real quick.
We are launching a new screening series with UArts, last year we did The Artist as a Filmmaker. This year we are doing, I know we just gave it a new title, but it a series on contemporary world cinema, called Passport to World Cinema. That is going to screen the last Thursday of every month.
Then, we never actually stop working on the Philadelphia Film Festival. Which is same time as always mid-October the 17th to 27th this year and we have been programming that since October 31st last year.