Seasonal independent film series returns to Bama Theatre

Seasonal independent film series returns to Bama Theatre

The Homesman is among several films to be screened as part of the Bama Art House film series running every Tuesday night through February 17. Rotten Tomatoes

The film series, which was established in its present format in January 2010 and also runs in the summer and fall, screens films from major festivals and art house cinemas not screened at Tuscaloosa’s main movie theater. The series began on Jan. 6 with “Boyhood,” Richard Linklater’s film – 12 years in the making – that follows a young boy as he ages from 6 to 18.

“Turnout was great for the first film, and the feedback and enthusiasm expressed from patrons about the remainder of the series has been very positive,” said Kevin Ledgewood, publicity manager for the Arts Council of Tuscaloosa. “We are excited about the potential attendance based on the wide variety of subject matter chosen and its potential appeal to a wide variety of audiences.”

Bama Theatre manager David Allgood said the films are chosen by members of the Arts Council Board of Directors, who review trailers and film festivals before voting on which films will be screened. Allgood said he then goes to distributors to see if they can make their selections a reality, which can be difficult.

“There’s a pecking order by the gatekeepers of the movie industry,” he said. “The multiplexes usually get first pick, and sometimes studios are hesitant because we only show the films one night.”

Allgood said the series has allowed for the creation of good relationships with studios big and small, such as Sony Pictures Classics, Magnolia Pictures, IFC Films and GKids.

“We always get Woody Allen’s latest films, and we also got ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ when it came out,” he said. “We also had the Alabama premieres of ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ and ‘Muscle Shoals.’”

While Allgood said the series is fortunate to get some films during their first runs in theaters, he acknowledged it is getting more difficult to beat the films’ DVD and on-demand release dates, and some films are more of an experience on the big screen than on-demand.

“This past summer, we had ‘Snowpiercer,’ which was released on VOD and theatrical on the same day by The Weinstein Company,” Allgood said. “That’s not the kind of movie you want to watch on your phone. The sound effects are only something you can get in theaters.”

The series also screens foreign films, a trend alive and well in the winter series. On Jan. 13, the series screens the acclaimed Australian horror film and Sundance breakout “The Babadook” about a mother and son tormented by a sinister presence in their house, while the Israeli comedy and Tribeca Film Festival premiere “Zero Motivation” – about a unit of female Israeli soldiers waiting to return to civilian life – screens on Jan. 27. Other films in the series include the Edward Snowden documentary “Citizenfour,” Tommy Lee Jones’ western “The Homesman” and the Sundance dramedy “Listen Up, Philip” with Jason Schwartzman and Elisabeth Moss. The series’ final slot, Feb. 17, is still open, but Allgood said he is in discussions with studios to fill it, possibly with “Two Days, One Night” with Marion Cotillard from IFC Films. The screening will also feature a free, live performance from The Voodoo Saints.

Ledgewood and Allgood agreed the series’ main goal is to offer audiences something new.

“It appeals to the citizens who not only love film as a form of entertainment, but those who desire to experience unique, thought-provoking and harder to find movies that aren’t available at most commercial theaters,” Ledgewood said. “Bama Art House evenings are also appealing because of the overall experience of being present at the historic Bama Theatre and being a part of the group of patrons who attend regularly.”

Allgood said the series appeals to all facets of the local community, including the student population.

“We love to see students here,” Allgood said. “Student tickets are only $7, popcorn is only $1, candy and soda are only $2, and we’ve got good sound, a good screen and twinkling stars on the ceiling.”

The Bama Art House Winter Film Series continues this Tuesday, Jan. 13, at the Bama Theatre with a screening of “The Babadook.” All films in the series begin at 7:30 p.m., with doors opening at 6:45 p.m. Admission is $7 for students and $8 for general audiences.

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