Jonah Crismore has been the executive director of Cinema Center for about a month and a half and his biggest challenge thus far has not been learning how to wheel and deal with people in the business of film exhibition and distribution.
It has been finding time to schmooze with all the heavy hitters and young upstarts in Fort Wayne who want to be schmoozed by him.
I hadn’t anticipated having to meet all these new people, Crismore said.
He said he is very glad to be an ambassador for the 36-year-old nonprofit movie theater, but he wasn’t expecting so many requests for face time.
Word must have gotten around, Crismore said, that he is open to partnerships with other organizations.
The first big event on Crismore’s watch happens Saturday at the venue.
Called the Rock and Reel Film Festival, it will be a showcase of five rock music documentaries with food and drink catered by Calhoun Street Soups, Salads and Spirits and an after-party in Cinema Center’s Spectator Lounge, which is in the space formerly occupied by Artlink.
Films scheduled to be shown include features on the bands Anvil, Wilco and the Pixies. There’s also The Other F Word, about fatherhood as experienced by aging punk rockers.
Crismore said attendees can drop in for a single film or stay all day.
Local writer and rock documentarian Greg Locke will show short films in the lounge throughout the day and the band Timber will perform live in the evening, he said.
Cinema Center partnered on this event with Neat Neat Neat Records, Crismore said.
Some locale cineastes have grumbled privately that the lineup for Rock and Reel is lacking in diversity, but Crismore said several factors dictated the choice of films, including the partnership with Neat Neat Neat, the theme of the festival and financial considerations.
I love hip-hop, he said. I would love to feature some hip-hop-related films at some point. But for this, the films had to fit under the umbrella of rock music.
The Rock and Reel Film Festival boasts characteristics that Crismore plans to press into greater service in the future: namely, partnerships and use of the Spectator Lounge.
Crismore said he sees a day when the Spectator Lounge is open every day, not just for special occasions.
He wants it to be a place where film lovers and filmmakers gather to compare notes and share the love, and where young people can come to learn the rudiments of filmmaking.
Right now, it’s a blank canvas, he said. I don’t want Cinema Center to be all about sitting in a theater and then leaving.
Crismore said a monthly midnight movie series will get under way at Cinema Center starting Oct. 27 with a screening of David Cronenberg’s The Fly.
He said he hopes new events like these occasionally cultivate a party atmosphere at the theater.
Before August, Crismore was a variable annuities underwriting specialist for Lincoln Financial. He recalled that some fellow employees who might have benefited from a free-ticket program at Cinema Center didn’t seem to know the theater existed.
There seemed to be a kink of the process of spreading the word about the theater, he said.
Crismore said he and the venue’s new theater manager, Dave Schaab, plan to hit social media a lot harder than it has ever been hit before.
He knows it will take awhile to change some people’s perceptions of Cinema Center, but he said he is excited about that process.
For now he is going slow but steady, he said.
He recently replaced the old cash register in the lobby with an iPad.
It’s just an easier way to keep records and to record ticket and concessions sales, he said. If people have questions about the film, we can show them the trailer and related materials.
Schaab said he believes there is a new energy rejuvenating Cinema Center.
We’re definitely exploring all sorts of new ideas, Crismore said. We want to take a step back and ask, Why do we do it this way? Is there another way to do it?’