Denver's premier art-house cinema, Sie FilmCenter, is feeling the pain of closures like everyone else — and like so many others, the staff is finding ways to carry on its mission.
On March 20, Keith Garcia, the artistic director, sent a note to supporters.
"Temporarily closing the Sie FilmCenter in an effort to slow the progress of this global pandemic will definitely have its merits in combating the urgent health situation we are currently living, but for Denver Film it has come at the cost of the staff, the movies, and the community that we have spent so many years building into a strong, sturdy home," he wrote.
In his message, he offered film lovers several ways to engage with the Sie while it's closed. He encouraged them to follow @thedenverfilm on Instagram and Facebook, where the staff will be sharing movie recommendations. Denver Film is also launching Sie for Yourself, a daily pick that can can be easily found on streaming services.
In addition to all that, the Sie has partnered with distributors to offer online screenings of movies slated to play the big screen in the weeks ahead. Each screening costs $12, the average price of a movie at the Sie.
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"Kino Lorber, Oscilloscope, and Film Movement are offering some of their new titles — which were already booked to open at the Sie FilmCenter in the coming weeks — available for streaming with a generous portion of the 'ticket' price benefitting Denver Film during our temporary closure," Garcia explained. "We will 'open' these films every Friday while we are closed and provide the links to purchase a pass to a film. Through this new approach we can keep bringing each of you and our community the best in arthouse, independent, world and classic films."
After a tragic year — in which Denver Film, the nonprofit that runs the Sie, mourned the loss of Denver Film Festival artistic director Brit Withey and saw the departure of executive director Andrew Rogers — staffers have learned to survive. They've continued to offer innovative film programming, a critically celebrated edition of the Denver Film Festival, and a blockbuster set of screenings at Red Rocks through Film on the Rocks. And now they're moving forward again, even as the theater's gone dark.
All of this is possible in part because of Denver Film's strong membership program.
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By contrast, the Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse, which shut its Denver locations after the governor required the closure of all theaters, announced on March 18 that it would be furloughing 80 percent of its staff. The Alamo's founders are setting up a $2 million relief fund for furloughed workers, and have encouraged corporate partners to donate at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’re doing everything we can to help get our teams through the furlough period while making certain there will be a stable company to return to,” Tim League, Alamo Drafthouse CEO, said in a statement announcing the fund. “The coronavirus pandemic is an existential threat to all cinema, but particularly independent and arthouse theaters. That’s why I’m asking for our friends and partners in the film and hospitality industries — if you believe companies like ours are vital to the welfare and strength of your businesses, please help us keep our people safe, strong, and ready to get back to work.”
While Garcia acknowledges that the future of the cinema scene is uncertain, he's confident that the Sie FilmCenter will reopen, and he's eager to continue sharing his picks with Denver film lovers.
"When we return from this intermission, we will be looking at an unknown future in the movie industry and a new landscape for sure, but it is paramount that we continue to engage you with the biggest tool that we have to connect us: cinema," he writes. "When we reopen, you have our promise that we will engage our physical theater screens like never before, with a newfound appreciation for sitting together in the dark and keeping our heads held upwards, watching movies."