November 22, 2000

Fall Creek Theaters to Go Non-Profit Route

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After 14 years as Ithaca’s independent art cinemas, Fall Creek Pictures and Cinemapolis are going non-profit, owners Lynne Cohen and Richard Szanyi announced last week.

In response to a steady decline in film-goer attendance, the partners will use the theaters’ new non-profit status to seek public support in the form of tax-deductible donations and grants. Cohen and Szanyi will continue to run both movie houses, but as employees of the 7th Arts Corporation of Ithaca — a name chosen to emphasize film’s role as an art form.

“Its been a very rough year for exhibitors around the country, in particular arthouse exhibitors,” said Mary Fessenden, director of Cornell Cinema, who attributed the slump to a boom in DVDs, the availability of cable films and an increasing lack of distinction between viewing films on video and viewing them on the big screen.

“Nowadays, large screens are more important for films with spectacular visuals, not small films that draw audiences for their plots,” said Somjen Frazer ’03.

Going non-profit will allow Cinemapolis and Fall Creek to continue showing first-run independent, alternate and foreign films. In addition, the move will enable Cohen and Szanyi to add day-time educational programming.

“One of our ideas is to work with teachers from local middle schools to introduce students to films from other countries,” Cohen said.

With a board of directors and a network of major patrons contributing to decisions, 7th Arts Corporation will rely on input from the local community. “People take a more direct interest in a business when they understand that it is theirs,” Cohen said.

The inaugural fundraiser — a screening of Babette’s Feast and a gala reception — will be held on Saturday Dec. 2 and will kick-off the Winter Film Feast — a series of films about food.

“Eating well and going to the movies are two great ways to get through Ithaca winters,” Szanyi explained. “We thought combining these two activities was both fun and logical.”

Before coming to Ithaca, Szanyi and Cohen owned and operated an independent theater in Santa Fe. The two spent six weeks traveling around the state before choosing Ithaca.

“It was the most culturally sophisticated place we canvassed,” Cohen said but added that even the town’s devoted patron base is not enough to keep the enterprise solvent. “It is up to the community to keep the theaters going.”

Archived article by Sana Krasikov