Features and Columns · Movies

Movie Houses of Worship: The Indiana University Cinema

By  · Published on September 15th, 2013

“Movie Houses of Worship” is a regular feature spotlighting our favorite movie theaters around the world, those temples of cinema catering to the most religious-like film geeks. If you’d like to suggest or submit a place you regularly worship at the altar of cinema, please email our weekend editor.

The Indiana University Cinema

Location: 1213 East 7th St. Bloomington, IN

Date Opened: January 13, 2011

No. of Screens: 1

Current first-run titles: Only God Forgives. This weekend, the cinema devoted itself to a retrospective of the work of director Nicolas Winding Refn, who was present for several introductions, conversations, Q&As and (of course) his latest Gosling-fest.

Repertory Programming: Filling out the rest of the Refn series were screenings of Bronson, Valhalla Rising and Drive, all presented on 35mm prints. And in a shrewd programming move during a weekend that hosted a director known for his love of B-movies and schlock cinema, this weekend launched the Cinema’s annual Midnight series with H. Tjut Djalil’s trash-terpiece Lady Terminator. Sunday began another director retrospective focused on the work of independent filmmaker and distributor Ava DuVernay, beginning with the Jamaican crime drama Better Mus’ Come and DuVernay’s own hip-hop documentary This is the Life. The DuVernay screenings continue throughout the week at the IU Cinema and the campus’s Black Film Center Archive.

Special Events: It’s often difficult to distinguish the film’s new and repertory programs from special events, because so many screenings presented at the cinema are padded with extras including guest filmmaker Q&As or live orchestral accompaniment to silent films. Of particular note is the Midwest Orphans Film Symposium coming up at the end of September – a conflagration of scholars, archivists, and filmmakers who exhibit and speak about “neglected and ephemeral cinematic artifacts,” or “orphaned” films. Special events at the cinema generally span the range of visits from contemporary filmmakers to student film festivals to national conferences.

Why I Worship Here: There has certainly been a film-devoted community in and around Indiana University’s flagship campus for quite some time, but between screenings of recent arthouse fare through the Ryder Film Series, student-run screenings of materials from the David Bradley 16mm Collection on campus, several local film festivals, and the occasional arrival of an indie, foreign film or documentary at one of the two AMC multiplexes (how’s that for competition?), the cinephilic community here was rich but scattershot. The Indiana University Cinema gathered that community into a single house of worship replete with A-grade sound and image, and even an orchestra pit to boot. The Cinema integrated many of the town’s diverse and overlapping interests in the moving image, but didn’t dispel them; rather, the IU Cinema acts as the central hub for Bloomington’s movie-loving community. With a multiplex culture that continues to disregard the moviegoing experience, the IU Cinema’s single screen has provided an ideal service for nearly every type of filmgoer, showing anything and everything from underground to arthouse to classic Hollywood, from advance premieres to the most obscure of the obscure, from academic presentations to popular events.

Bloomington is a city devoted to creating a sense of local connection and community. A quintessential college town, many Bloomingtonians are protective of and invested in their local co-ops, their farmer’s market, and even their Occupy (yes, we still have one). So it’s no surprise that a similar sense of community resonates within the four walls of the THX-certified theater. It’s rare to enter the Cinema (especially when affiliated with the University) and not see someone you know. And much of the Cinema’s programming aims to be representative of the interests of its regulars and the larger community. The line between audience and curator is often blurred. Like many of my fellow graduate students, I have excitedly and nervously found myself introducing a repertory screening or two.

The Cinema has often been described as an “embarrassment of riches” in reference to the incredible amount of interesting and diverse moving image material that graces the IU Cinema’s single screen on a weekly basis. Past guests have included Werner Herzog, Claire Denis, Peter Bogdanovich, Paul Schrader, Charles Burnett, Kenneth Anger, Walter Salles, Pedro Costa and Albert Maysles. Besides the filmmaker events and conferences, several regular series also guarantee a variety of material, including the City Lights series (devoted to classical Hollywood and arthouse fare), the Underground series (devoted to the avant-garde and experimental), the International Arthouse series (devoted to first-run independent and foreign narrative and nonfiction filmmaking), and the aforementioned Midnight series. Later this Fall the cinema will host an examination of Godard’s work curated by New Yorker film critic Richard Brody, and a Glenn Close retrospective featuring the actress herself.

Recent Screening of Note: As the Fall semester just began (and the Cinema is typically closed for at least half of the summer), perhaps the most memorable screening that comes to mind immediately is Crispin Glover’s visit to the Cinema this past Spring, in which he presented his touring production of two of his films, What Is It? and It is Fine! Everything is Fine! complete with a dramatic slideshow, a lengthy conversation with the audience and a very personal book signing. It was a truly astounding blend of live theater and cinema.

Devotion to the Concessions: No concessions.

Last Word: This is the only place that I would ever watch all nine hours of Shoah in a single day. I worship here because the variety and quality of programming that the IU Cinema offers often makes it very, very hard to get work done.

For more: check out FSR’s interview with IU Cinema Director Jon Vickers.

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