The Journal Gazette
Friday, October 15, 2021 1:00 am

Center of change

Arthouse adapts throughout pandemic

Art Herbig

When I officially took the reins at Cinema Center, just months before a pandemic, I had big plans for the future.

Obviously, plans have changed. What has not changed is the spirit and motivation behind the changes we hoped to make. As we celebrate the second Hobnobben Film Festival since our doors closed, it's time to welcome Fort Wayne into the thinking behind the next phase for Cinema Center.

There are people asking, “Isn't Cinema Center that movie theater downtown?” I get that question often. To those people, I respond, “Cinema Center shows movies to connect the members of our community.”

Like a museum, patrons come to Cinema Center to engage with the art of cinema. However, we also engage with one another. We are a community.

It might be easy to see us as a “movie theater,” but as a not-for-profit arthouse, we have more to give.

Weeks before the pandemic, we began to highlight that potential with Cinema Center Friday Nights: films paired with panels that could engage the audience about both content and creation. It was often my favorite part of the week. You can still see some of those discussions on our Facebook page.

Then, while simultaneously creating more Friday Nights and figuring out how to socially distance in a small theater, we had to close. It was heartbreaking.

As the pandemic stretched on, we have continued to meet with our board of directors to strategize a path forward.

At the beginning, we sought out opportunities to be online. Our board president, Derek Devine, came up with a Shack Wacky Film Festival for people to create films while stuck inside. Our curators hand-selected short films for the lockdown crowds. Our distributors made it possible for people to rent films at home.

While exploring these ideas and others, we found ourselves floundering a bit.

It became clear that we needed to focus on the future. Maybe the biggest change we've made is hiring our new general manager, Shanel Turner, who returns to Cinema Center after spending time as a curator in the past. Her energy, intellect and charisma make her more than we could have hoped for as a community steward. She is already having a profound impact on the people, programming and space that make Cinema Center what it is.

In the coming weeks, our patrons and members will be hearing more from us. We're going to have new memberships with new opportunities to explore learning about and even making films. Cinema Center Friday Nights is returning while we work on creating more chances to discuss our films. We'll also be exploring ways to shape what we show on screen. In fact, we plan on starting a “Fort Wayne Film Club” that will connect people in our community with production professionals from around the globe.

Ultimately, we see our role as a place for inspiration. Whether we inspire good conversation or creative storytelling, we have the unique opportunity to make watching the movie just a beginning.

None of this would be possible without the continued support of our sponsors and donors. Thank you to all who have continued to support us for making a future possible.

Until then, enjoy Hobnobben at The Embassy this weekend. If you've never tried a film festival, go see “Greyland” at 10 a.m. Saturday. On top of being a great film about a town close to us, our partners at NIPSCO made it possible for you to see it for free. If you prefer to continue your lockdown, check out the festival online at

In the coming weeks, there are going to be even more things to explore about the new Cinema Center. Thanks for sticking with us as we continue to learn and grow.

Art Herbig is executive director of Cinema Center and director of the Center for Collaborative Media at Purdue University Fort Wayne. 

HobnobbenFilm Festival Oct. 15-17 • 107 films (40% international; 25% with local or Indiana connection) • Embassy Theatre (general seating) • Students $5, adults $10, single-day pass $30, three-day pass $50 • In-person and virtual tickets available • Film schedule, ticket links, merchandise and details at

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