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 and film collective ( 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 largely dedicated to exhibiting experimental cinema, video art, and other time-based artworks in their off time. 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 (especially if one lives outside of a major urban center like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Chicago), one is 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.

However, deciding to start a microcinema leaves one with a great number of questions that are often quite difficult to answer. How does one go about clearing the rights to a film for public screening, especially if the venue is charging admission? How does one 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 more vibrant film culture.

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