Movie House of Worship: Bryn Mawr Film Institute

By  · Published on March 3rd, 2013

“Movie Houses of Worship” is a regular feature spotlighting our favorite movie theaters around the world, those that are like temples of cinema catering to the most religious-like film geeks. This week, reader Craig Wooten highlights one of his favorite theaters. His comments are those quoted. If you’d like to suggest or submit a place you regularly worship at the altar of cinema, please email our weekend editor.

Bryn Mawr Film Institute

Location: 824 W Lancaster Ave, Bryn Mawr, PA

Opened: 1926, as The Seville. Re-named The Bryn Mawr Theater around 1950. Re-opened in 2005

No. of screens: 2 (more to come)

Current first-run titles: Amour; A Late Quartet; Silver Linings Playbook

Repertory programming: The BMFI has a great devotion to film studies ‐ it’s even currently running through screenings of Mark Cousins’ documentary series The Story of Film ‐ so of course they show classics. Course screenings this month include Deliverance (for “Films’ Novel Origins”) and Badlands (as part of a series on philosophy and Malick). Howl’s Moving Castle will be shown on March 16 (all of the Saturday Kids Matinees in March are Miyazaki films). And on March 12, Ikiru is showing as part of a program focused on parenting issues.

Special Events: “BMFI regularly holds special screenings that feature introductions/Q&As with directors, documentary subjects, those knowledgeable about the subject of the film, movie reviewers and more. How cool is it to have a pathologist speak on the movie Contagion? Even when there aren’t special speakers lined-up, it is not uncommon for BMFI head Juliet Goodfriend to race her wheelchair to the front of the theater to welcome everyone and introduce the movie. Couple this with events like its West Side Story Sing-Along, midnight showings of cult films like Serenity and its annual black tie Oscar Party complete with red carpet. Burgeoning film makers are invited to show their projects on the big screen at the Institute’s monthly Open Screen night. Film education is an integral part of the theater’s mission; The second floor holds classrooms where courses on film are held.” [Also: concerts, opera and theater.]

Why I worship here: “I spent my early childhood at the theater watching classics like E.T. back when it was known simply as the Bryn Film Theater. During the rise of the multiplex, Bryn Mawr Theater shuttered its doors. The theater has since been renovated, restored and re-christened the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. BMFI lacks some of the exquisite features of other film houses. It may even be considered dinky by today’s conventional standards. Yet where BMFI thrives is in its understanding of the communal nature of film. Its large enclosed atrium invites patrons to stand around and discuss the film. The building also houses a cafe (Hothouse Coffee) if you want exchange views on what you have just seen over tea/coffee & pastries. It is hard not to appreciate a place that is so dedicated to the art of film.”

Recent screening of note: “Midnight screening of Serenity. I was late in discovering the Firefly TV series and in turn missed the theatrical run of the Serenity film. Even though I own the movie on DVD, watching the movie with fellow fans wearing Jayne hats and yelling ‘shiny’ is something that my home theater can’t provide.”

Devotion to the concessions: “The concession stand offers Toblerone, Ghiradeli and other candy you might not find at your normal United Artist/AMC theater. However, I’ve eaten Sno-Caps there since childhood no need to change now.”

Last word: “BMFI is community owned and looks to serve its audience. The Seville Theater has, and continues to be renovated to enhance the film viewing experience. The board of BMFI is also very receptive to suggestion for upcoming films & classes. Bonus: FREE PARKING.”

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.