May 15, 2017

A Microcinema Handbook

During a recent visit to my hometown of San Diego, I was struck by an idea while attending a experimental film screening being held at an abandoned bread factory turned art center ( why doesn’t someone write a book on how to start your own microcinema?

This particular screening series ( was organized by a group of New York expats who, having become frustrated with their day jobs as arts administrators and graphic designers, decided to start a microcinema dedicated to exhibiting experimental cinema, video art, and other forms of time-based media. As we learned in Scott MacDonald’s book on Cinema 16 and see living on today in places like Light Industry and Spectacle, microcinemas and alternative screening spaces have long served as venues where films outside the mainstream can be seen and appreciated. By starting a microcinema or screening series, you're able to inject new ideas into the public consciousness by showing new, unfamiliar work, while also bringing like-minded people together and forming artistic communities. It's also worth noting that spaces like these are especially significant for people who don't live in major urban centers, and have significantly less opportunities to see (and show) challenging, unconventional work.

However, deciding to start a microcinema leaves one with a great number of difficult questions. How do you go about clearing the rights to a film for public screening, especially if the venue is charging admission? How do you go about becoming a nonprofit? Most importantly, how much is this going to cost? I believe that if someone wrote a book on how to start a microcinema that helped to answer questions like these, more people would open them. The result could only be a more interesting and vibrant film culture.

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