Properly equipped for a new era.

After the movie, the lights come on.  I’m sitting in a very comfortable chair stuffed with memory foam.  On the walls are murals by Thomas Hart Benton (1889 – 1975). During the film you can’t see the murals on either side because curtains automatically cover them during the show, so as to not distract viewers with any peripheral glare. The side speakers are also out of sight – they’re hidden within the elegant and long chandelier lights that hang like Japanese lanterns next to the walls of this very spacious and recently renovated theater. I walk up the carpeted hall and meet Manny Knowles, the Assistant Director for Cinema Systems/Operations. We walk into the lobby and from there we take an elevator up a couple floors and the doors open directly into the projection booth, one outfitted with what I would guess to be about two million dollars worth of equipment. 4K, 2K, 3D, 35mm, 16mm, projectors for all these formats are comfortably spaced out in an immaculately clean booth where you can see white gloves hanging from the rewind bench. I am presented with the hard-drive that contained that night’s movie (Melancholia). A small square you could hide in a purse. Next to me are 35mm canisters for Night Train to Terror. It was obtained thanks to the kind permission of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, which I think is fascinating because I didn’t even know they had a film archive, much less one that contained such fun titles as Night Train to Terror (or Café Flesh, or The Stewardesses, which also screened here). 

The list of marvels I experienced during my visit to the Indiana University Cinema in Bloomington goes on; from the programming content (an impressive array of varying thematic clusters covering all genres), to promotions (a glossy brochure with 82 pages full of beautiful color and black-and-white images that accompany informative reviews, a great website, and an impressive roster of visiting guests (which for the Fall season alone included filmmakers John Sayles, Pedro Costa, and Charles Burnett, to name a few). To say I was jealous would be an understatement. If a were to compare the IU Cinema program to a boat, this is what it would look like:

Bloomington, Indiana is a sleepy college town with about 80,000 people. When I think of movies shot in Bloomington, the only one that comes to mind is Breaking Away – a favorite of mine, which I’ve blogged about in the past (link at bottom). I program a film series in Boulder, Colorado, which is similar to the one in Bloomington in many ways. Boulder is also a college town. It’s also a similar size (if a bit bigger, at over 100,000 people). And Boulder also has a connection to Breaking Away: screenwriter Steve Tesich took part of his inspiration for that film from his experiences with Boulder’s Red Zinger Bicycle Classic.

So, yes, there are some similarities between Boulder and Bloomington. But I’ll tell you what Boulder doesn’t have that Bloomington has. It doesn’t have this:

Instead, it has this:

Okay, maybe I’m being a bit rough on myself. The film series I program has been around since 1941 and does manage to bring in over 100 rare, cool, obscure, fun, unusual, beautiful, and interesting films every year, as well as some special guests. But when Boulder’s flagship single-screen film venue, The Flatirons Theater (seen below), closed down in the late nineties, did the University step up to buy this huge edifice adjoining the campus? No. That once grand building with over 1000 seats has been gutted and partitioned into a liquor store and a marijuana dispensary. Unsurprisingly, C.U. Boulder’s top ranking in the nation as a party school for drinking and pot-smoking continues unabated.

Indiana University can truthfully boast of having “a world-class facility and a program dedicated to the scholarly study of film in both its traditional and modern forms.” When IU says it is committed “to excellence in the arts, research, and teaching” the beautiful and renovated IU Cinema provides stunning and physical proof of that. It provides this proof on a regular basis to all its students, faculty, staff, the community at large, and to all the attending artists that visit.

Here at the University of Colorado, Boulder, there are two new buildings that were made with the visual arts in mind. The building meant to champion multi-media integration (where my current office resides) is called ATLAS and it has a tiny film theater that was specifically dedicated to small academic film classes. During the planning stages when I suggested a larger space that might be opened up to the general paying public with proper signage and a space to sell tickets for nightly events, I was shown the door. So much for cap-and-gown. In the adjoining Visual Arts Complex, which was recently completed to the tune of $27 million dollars, there is one big -sized auditorium with 200 seats that was built to accommodate a projection booth and large-screen film projection (shown below at right). During the planning stage I made many suggestions, most of which were ignored. Later I was stunned to find out that the architects did not even elevate the projection booth. IU Cinema’s projection booth is on the left, the Visual Arts Complex Auditorium projection booth is on the right. Can you spot the difference in elevation? No elevator needed, that’s for sure. Notice also how the light spills in from the entrance doors at the upper right. Even though there are double doors, some genius decided to put a huge circular light that can’t be dimmed between the double-doors so that light spills into the auditorium when late-comers arrive. It’s also hidden in the basement. And there are no signs to guide you there.

What this illustrates is how far down the ladder our Film Studies Department lies in the the pecking order of things. Our administrators got so focused on “making it, first-and-foremost a classroom,” that they forget that if they designed it, instead, first-and-foremost, as a world-class theater, one that keeps the general public in mind, then they’d also have a world-class classroom, like IU now has. If you were a parent or donor coming to watch the films made by campus students, of these two auditoriums which one do you think will make a bigger impression? I forgot to mention that IU film students are also making, and projecting, 3D movies. Meanwhile, our film program doesn’t even have the money to install a proper Digital Cinema Package system that most movie theaters will have installed by this year of 2012.

Well, as I often tell the three people on my staff and my four part-time employees, “we do a lot with little.”

As the captain of a leaky rowboat, I had a chance to meet the captain of the Spanish Galleon that is the I.U. Cinema – director Jon Vickers. At this point I will have to admit to being so envious of the I.U. Cinema, the venue, their equipment, their program, their budget, the size of their staff, and the absolutely amazing amount of both community and university support that clearly all came together to make it happen, that I kind of wanted to hate the guy. No such luck.

When they hand out “nicest-guy-on-the-planet-awards” Jon Vickers will be somewhere in that line and within waving distance. He’s also one of those people who works nights and weekends and somehow still manages to have a life, with a wife, and three kids – whom he goes skateboarding with. Here I am, about the same age, in a similar job, and I can barely keep alive two cats.  And if I’m going to win any awards they’ll mostly fall under the “most-apt-to-put-foot-in-mouth” category. Which is why I had no problems asking Jon all kinds of rude and detailed questions about IU Cinema’s budget – which Jon politely deflected. But he did reveal one thing that explains a lot: the president of IU, Michael McRobbie, is a huge movie buff. Even better: he loves foreign and independent cinema and has great taste. McRobbie came to IU in 1997 and clearly made the construction of a state-of-the-art cinema a priority – and he hit it out of the park.

Turning to page 60 of the IU Cinema program are two pages dedicated to films picked by McRobbie, and they include reviews and pictures for films by Akira Kurosawa, Federico Fellini, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. McRobbie knows his stuff. Even more impressive is the fact that his passion was clearly instrumental in funding and remodeling a historic building that will help keep that fire alive for any and every cinephile, not just those in Bloomington, but near and far. It’s worth the visit, no matter where you are.

Links:

http://www.cinema.indiana.edu/about/

http://moviemorlocks.com/2009/08/16/breaking-away/

Thanks to:

Shira Segal (My main reason for visiting Bloomington.)

Manny Knowles (His amazing depth and breadth of knowledge related to all aspects of projection were barely tapped by this particular “film-hugger” – to use his term. I concede that it’s an apt and concise way to refer to that shrinking group of cinephiles who treasure celluloid warmth over digital clarity.)

Jon Vickers (For taking the time to join me for a pint at the Upland Brewing Company and to exchange exhibitor stories.)

Andy Uhrich (For use of his car, and for guiding us on other adventures that might pop up in future posts.)

P.S. – Dear University of Colorado, Boulder. There is a vacant property adjoining your campus with a cinematic connection (see below). It is the First Christian Church that was featured in Alexander Payne’s About Schmidt. It’s for sale. Please take a moment to peruse the IU Cinema website to see how the renovation of a historic building can be turned into a major arts and culture hub. The church location is at the entrance to Boulder, literally across the street from your campus, very visible, has plenty of parking, is surrounded by student housing and apartments, and comes with two separate buildings that can be used for lectures and meetings. It is an iconic building that resembles a large whale with stunningly-colored stained glass teeth that stretch out to devour the Rocky Mountains. It’s beautiful. It could be used for movies, concerts, visiting artist lectures, and much more. It could be a crown jewel.

0 Response Properly equipped for a new era.
Posted By Jenni : January 1, 2012 7:17 pm

Thomas Hart Benton, famous muralist, painter, from Missouri-that’s so cool to me that IU in Bloomington has some of his fantastic work on display in the student theatre. Having grown up in neighboring OH,we had always heard about IU Bloomington’s great reputation for its Music Programs:performance, vocal, instrumental, education, fine arts. It seems to me, as an outside observer, that the board for IU Bloomington chose a President who would uphold the school’s reputation for and support of the Arts. I am not at all familiar with U of CO at Boulder, but is it’s focus on graduating business experts, for example? That may explain the lack of foresight in having a nicer venue for students and the public in Boulder to view classic and foreign films in. My brother in law is a college professor and he has said college presidents spend most of their time fundraising, a job he has said he’d never want due to that fact. I certainly hope the powers that be take up your suggestion to buy the neighboring church, and turn it into a state of the art theatre, not a parking lot, which often seems to be the case nowadays.

Posted By Jenni : January 1, 2012 7:17 pm

Thomas Hart Benton, famous muralist, painter, from Missouri-that’s so cool to me that IU in Bloomington has some of his fantastic work on display in the student theatre. Having grown up in neighboring OH,we had always heard about IU Bloomington’s great reputation for its Music Programs:performance, vocal, instrumental, education, fine arts. It seems to me, as an outside observer, that the board for IU Bloomington chose a President who would uphold the school’s reputation for and support of the Arts. I am not at all familiar with U of CO at Boulder, but is it’s focus on graduating business experts, for example? That may explain the lack of foresight in having a nicer venue for students and the public in Boulder to view classic and foreign films in. My brother in law is a college professor and he has said college presidents spend most of their time fundraising, a job he has said he’d never want due to that fact. I certainly hope the powers that be take up your suggestion to buy the neighboring church, and turn it into a state of the art theatre, not a parking lot, which often seems to be the case nowadays.

Posted By dukeroberts : January 1, 2012 7:28 pm

That IU theater is beautiful. Wow. I think I want to go away to IU for school now.

Posted By dukeroberts : January 1, 2012 7:28 pm

That IU theater is beautiful. Wow. I think I want to go away to IU for school now.

Posted By dukeroberts : January 1, 2012 7:30 pm

What is the incline gradient in the auditorium? If there’s one thing I like about current metroplexes it’s the steps. I like being able to see over the tall guy in front of me. I’m not too tall a fella.

Posted By dukeroberts : January 1, 2012 7:30 pm

What is the incline gradient in the auditorium? If there’s one thing I like about current metroplexes it’s the steps. I like being able to see over the tall guy in front of me. I’m not too tall a fella.

Posted By morlockjeff : January 1, 2012 11:24 pm

Oh man, I would love to get a peek at the Kinsey Institute’s film archive. Who knew they have a division that rents prints to educational faculties that weren’t just the expected “sex research” films? I saw THE STEWARDESSES in 3-D in high school and later at the L.A. 3-D festival about 6 years ago. Let me tell you, it doesn’t improve with age, regardless of the format.

Posted By morlockjeff : January 1, 2012 11:24 pm

Oh man, I would love to get a peek at the Kinsey Institute’s film archive. Who knew they have a division that rents prints to educational faculties that weren’t just the expected “sex research” films? I saw THE STEWARDESSES in 3-D in high school and later at the L.A. 3-D festival about 6 years ago. Let me tell you, it doesn’t improve with age, regardless of the format.

Posted By suzidoll : January 2, 2012 1:43 pm

I will make a pilgrimage to IU just to see the Thomas Hart Benton murals.

Posted By suzidoll : January 2, 2012 1:43 pm

I will make a pilgrimage to IU just to see the Thomas Hart Benton murals.

Posted By keelsetter : January 3, 2012 1:33 am

Jenni – You’re right on all counts. CU Boulder is a hot-spot for Engineering & Applied Science. A few blocks from my house they’re building a $145 million Biotechnology building, which was spearheaded, in part, by CU Boulder Distinguished Professor and Nobel laureate Tom Cech. When it’s done it will be over 337,000 square feet of development. It will tackle issues ranging from cancer to heart disease and tissue engineering – so that’s certainly nothing to sneeze at.

Duke – I’m not sure what the exact gradients are, but I can tell you that even smaller people will not have an obstructed view at IU Cinema.

Jeff – So would I! I suspect the Kinsey Institute wants to downplay anything that seems salacious and is thus keen not to advertise their collection. That would be unfortunate, as even the x-rated CAFE FLESH is a very interesting and smart film that really thinks about the role of voyeurism. I can’t comment on THE STEWARDESSES, not having seen it, but will take your word on that one.

Suzie – Perhaps IU Cinema could begin a new marketing campaign: “Come for the murals, stay for the movie!”

Posted By keelsetter : January 3, 2012 1:33 am

Jenni – You’re right on all counts. CU Boulder is a hot-spot for Engineering & Applied Science. A few blocks from my house they’re building a $145 million Biotechnology building, which was spearheaded, in part, by CU Boulder Distinguished Professor and Nobel laureate Tom Cech. When it’s done it will be over 337,000 square feet of development. It will tackle issues ranging from cancer to heart disease and tissue engineering – so that’s certainly nothing to sneeze at.

Duke – I’m not sure what the exact gradients are, but I can tell you that even smaller people will not have an obstructed view at IU Cinema.

Jeff – So would I! I suspect the Kinsey Institute wants to downplay anything that seems salacious and is thus keen not to advertise their collection. That would be unfortunate, as even the x-rated CAFE FLESH is a very interesting and smart film that really thinks about the role of voyeurism. I can’t comment on THE STEWARDESSES, not having seen it, but will take your word on that one.

Suzie – Perhaps IU Cinema could begin a new marketing campaign: “Come for the murals, stay for the movie!”

Posted By Jim Vecchio : January 3, 2012 11:57 am

I’ve been to Hammond, and Indianapolis, and even Fort Wayne. However, I missed out on that theater and consider it my great loss! Maybe, someday!

Posted By Jim Vecchio : January 3, 2012 11:57 am

I’ve been to Hammond, and Indianapolis, and even Fort Wayne. However, I missed out on that theater and consider it my great loss! Maybe, someday!

Posted By filmbuff : January 3, 2012 7:54 pm

The Kinsey Collection can be searched in the IU library catalog. Follow links here: http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/library/video-contents.html. There are pretty generous lending policies and the film faculty at IU and the staff at Kinsey have programmed several screenings on campus and off campus.

Posted By filmbuff : January 3, 2012 7:54 pm

The Kinsey Collection can be searched in the IU library catalog. Follow links here: http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/library/video-contents.html. There are pretty generous lending policies and the film faculty at IU and the staff at Kinsey have programmed several screenings on campus and off campus.

Posted By Craig Simpson : January 4, 2012 3:34 pm

Thanks for a good piece on my favorite cinema. One minor correction: Steve Tesich got his inspiration for “Breaking Away” from his experience in Bloomington’s Little 500. You may be thinking of his script for “American Flyers” that has the Boulder connection.

Posted By Craig Simpson : January 4, 2012 3:34 pm

Thanks for a good piece on my favorite cinema. One minor correction: Steve Tesich got his inspiration for “Breaking Away” from his experience in Bloomington’s Little 500. You may be thinking of his script for “American Flyers” that has the Boulder connection.

Posted By keelsetter : January 5, 2012 1:46 pm

Hi, Craig -

Boulder resident and past RED ZINGER P.R. director Michael Aisner responds:

“Steve (Tesich) rode in the 1975 Red Zinger and heard about the Little Indy race and kindof blended the Dennis Christopher character from the Red Zinger in with the Little Indy junk riders to make that film. The boy is somewhat built on a boulder character named Tony Comfort who changed his name to Antonio Comforti and plastered his room with Italian magazines and newspapers. He was Dennis’s character. Then steve was sick of me urging him to write a REAL RACING MOBVIE and (American) Flyers resulted from that.”

Posted By keelsetter : January 5, 2012 1:46 pm

Hi, Craig -

Boulder resident and past RED ZINGER P.R. director Michael Aisner responds:

“Steve (Tesich) rode in the 1975 Red Zinger and heard about the Little Indy race and kindof blended the Dennis Christopher character from the Red Zinger in with the Little Indy junk riders to make that film. The boy is somewhat built on a boulder character named Tony Comfort who changed his name to Antonio Comforti and plastered his room with Italian magazines and newspapers. He was Dennis’s character. Then steve was sick of me urging him to write a REAL RACING MOBVIE and (American) Flyers resulted from that.”

Posted By Craig Simpson : January 6, 2012 10:28 am

Very interesting, thank you both. I was thinking more of the milieu when I read your initial statement. Didn’t know that about the character, though. That’s pretty funny.

Posted By Craig Simpson : January 6, 2012 10:28 am

Very interesting, thank you both. I was thinking more of the milieu when I read your initial statement. Didn’t know that about the character, though. That’s pretty funny.

Posted By Craig Simpson : January 6, 2012 10:33 am

Just one more thing: Tesich didn’t just “hear about” the Little 500; he was an alternate rider on the team while a student here at IU. That main character is also based on his teammate and frat brother David Blase.

Posted By Craig Simpson : January 6, 2012 10:33 am

Just one more thing: Tesich didn’t just “hear about” the Little 500; he was an alternate rider on the team while a student here at IU. That main character is also based on his teammate and frat brother David Blase.

Leave a Reply

Current ye@r *

MovieMorlocks.com is the official blog for TCM. No topic is too obscure or niche to be excluded from our film discussions. And we welcome your comments on our blogs and bloggers.
See more: facebook.com/tcmtv
See more: twitter.com/tcm
3-D  Action Films  Actors  Actors' Endorsements  Actresses  animal stars  Animation  Anime  Anthology Films  Art in Movies  Australian CInema  Autobiography  Avant-Garde  Aviation  Awards  B-movies  Beer in Film  Behind the Scenes  Best of the Year lists  Biography  Biopics  Blu-Ray  Books on Film  Boxing films  British Cinema  Canadian Cinema  Character Actors  Chicago Film History  Cinematography  Classic Films  College Life on Film  Comedy  Comic Book Movies  Crime  Czech Film  Dance on Film  Digital Cinema  Directors  Disaster Films  Documentary  Drama  DVD  Early Talkies  Editing  Educational Films  European Influence on American Cinema  Experimental  Exploitation  Fairy Tales on Film  Faith or Christian-based Films  Family Films  Film Composers  Film Criticism  film festivals  Film History in Florida  Film Noir  Film Scholars  Film titles  Filmmaking Techniques  Films of the 1960s  Films of the 1980s  Food in Film  Foreign Film  French Film  Gangster films  Genre  Genre spoofs  HD & Blu-Ray  Holiday Movies  Hollywood history  Hollywood lifestyles  Horror  Horror Movies  Icons  independent film  Italian Film  Japanese Film  Korean Film  Literary Adaptations  Martial Arts  Melodramas  Method Acting  Mexican Cinema  Moguls  Monster Movies  Movie Books  Movie Costumes  movie flops  Movie locations  Movie lovers  Movie Reviewers  Movie settings  Movie Stars  Movie titles  Movies about movies  Music in Film  Musicals  Outdoor Cinema  Paranoid Thrillers  Parenting on film  Pirate movies  Polish film industry  political thrillers  Politics in Film  Pornography  Pre-Code  Producers  Race in American Film  Remakes  Revenge  Road Movies  Romance  Romantic Comedies  Satire  Scandals  Science Fiction  Screenwriters  Semi-documentaries  Serials  Short Films  Silent Film  silent films  Social Problem Film  Sports  Sports on Film  Stereotypes  Straight-to-DVD  Studio Politics  Stunts and stuntmen  Suspense thriller  Swashbucklers  TCM Classic Film Festival  TCM Underground  Television  The British in Hollywood  The Germans in Hollywood  The Hungarians in Hollywood  The Irish in Hollywood  Theaters  Thriller  Trains in movies  Underground Cinema  VOD  War film  Westerns  Women in the Film Industry  Women's Weepies