The sun seems brighter. The birds' chirping sounds sweeter. My usual mid-afternoon lunch of Cheez-Its and Mountain Dew tastes better, like something that's not slowly rotting me from the inside. You know what that means: The Milwaukee Film Festival is coming.
Hyperbole (mostly) aside, the film festival – arguably one of the best cultural events this city does, and yes, the fact that I'm a movie junkie does bias me deeply – is barely two months away. Opening night is Sept. 25, which means that film fans should regularly expect announcements coming from Film Festival HQ. The first one came out this morning, including a significant addition to the festival: a new venue.
In addition to the successful rotation of the Oriental, the Downer and the Fox Bay movie theaters, the 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival has recruited the Times Cinema to its Avengers team of old school Milwaukee movie houses.
"I am thrilled that we can partner with the Milwaukee Film Festival and bring the wonderful films that Milwaukee enjoys to the west side neighborhood of Washington Heights," said Times Cinema owner Lee Barczak in the press release issued this morning.
"It has always been my dream to be a part of this and expand the opportunities for the Festival and all of us who love movies. I hope this begins a long and prosperous relationship with Milwaukee Film Festival."
The Times originally opened in the Washington Heights part of Milwaukee back in 1935. It briefly closed, along with the Rosebud, back in 2012 but quickly reopened the same year after Barczak took over.
The added venue will give the festival one more screen to spread its selections, as well as a working relationship with the Neighborhood Theater Group – which, in addition to the Times, also operates the Rosebud and currently mid-restoration Avalon.
Over the years, the Milwaukee Film Festival has been seemingly trying to expand further out across Milwaukee, becoming more accessible to more parts of the city while still maintaining the tight festival community.
The Marcus Ridge in New Berlin and North Shore in Mequon were once a part of that mission, but those suburban cineplex locales ended up being a step too far. Film festival regulars tended to avoid the long drives out into the 'burbs, away from the event's East Side hub, and suburban audiences didn't really venture enough into the festival's offerings to make up for it. The result was long drives and sparse screenings (I vividly remember several screenings consisting of me and about three to four others).
Adding the Times Cinema, however, seems like a logical step for the Milwaukee Film Festival. It fits in well with the rest of the festival's character-rich venues, ones whose film calendars – and typical audience members – are also no stranger to eclectic, artistic and occasionally experimental fare. It also spreads the event further out into Milwaukee without becoming a distant hassle for both moviegoers and staff, bounding around between films.
Most importantly, it adds another screen for movies. More movies is never a bad thing.
This morning's release also revealed this year's campaign art, the collaborative product of Milwaukee Film, Cathy Brautigam of Lone Shoe Graphics and Milwaukee-based freelance photographer Kat Schleicher. More exciting than the artwork or even the new venue, however, is just knowing the festival is within sight, the time of year that totally makes up for having to watch stuff like "Planes: Fire and Rescue" and "Blended."
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