Arts Talk


Cinema Center keeps rolling

New director wants to stretch audience

By Bonnie Blackburn
When Jonah Crismore stepped into the director’s chair at Cinema Center, Fort Wayne’s independent art-house movie theater, he knew it was time to stretch the audience the intimate theater had developed over the past four decades.

Fortunately, he seems up to the challenge.

“I’m not trying to change out everything,” he said. “Our members are accustomed to these milestones.” Milestones such as quirky fundraisers and interesting and unusual cinematic offerings.

One such fundraiser is December’s annual Artament, where local artists and businesses craft one of a kind Christmas (or otherwise holiday-ish) ornaments that are then auctioned off to the highest bidder. Or the Braineater’s Ball, the first event Crismore was involved with then he took over as executive director in September 2012 from former director Catherine Lee.

Fundraisers aside, the real purpose of Cinema Center is to bring the kind of movies to Fort Wayne that the city’s multiplexes won’t touch. Increasingly, though, as large production companies have seen dollar signs in edgier fare, the label “independent” has gotten muddied, Crismore said.

“I’m trying really hard to find these films that might not come anywhere near Fort Wayne,” he said. “The level of films that people want to see (are) made in the $10 million to $40 million range.”

In other words, films that could be classified as “major motion pictures.”

To combat that, Crismore said he’s seeking out “smaller” distributors that might not think of Fort Wayne as a stop for their films as they are rolled out across the country, usually staying on the coasts instead of finding film homes in the Midwest.

“The smaller distributors … they want people to see their films,” he said. One example is the documentary “Detropia,” a look at the deterioration of Detroit that has Oscar buzz behind it, but most likely won’t be one of the movies that will bring in large crowds at conventional theaters. “Detropia” had a strong run at Cinema Center in November, Crismore said.

Crismore comes to his cinematic roots authentically. A Fort Wayne native, he worked on the hit cable TV show “The Walking Dead” during a stint in California and earned a degree in film studies at Columbia College. His wife, Amanda Knaver, had the opportunity to study in Indiana, so the couple returned to Fort Wayne several years ago and Crismore worked at Lincoln Life before seeing the advertisement for the executive director’s position at Cinema Center.

Crismore said he respects the tradition of Cinema Center. According to its website, Cinema Center was founded in 1976.

Crismore’s next challenge is kicking off a capital campaign to upgrade the theater’s projection capabilities to be able to handle digital projection. The days of film are ending, he noted, and it’s getting harder and harder to get film prints of new releases.

Posted: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 1:32 pm
Last updated: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 12:36 pm