After 476 days, two virtual film festivals and months of streams from its well-stocked virtual cinema, MSP Film Society will return to in-person screenings at the historic St. Anthony Main Theatre next Thursday, July 1.
Not on one screen, but two.
“We’re testing the waters,” Executive Director Susan Smoluchowski said Wednesday by phone from New York City. “We will be showing films in Theatre 3 and also Theater 5, the small, very intimate one at the other end of the hall upstairs.”
Theatre 3 will reopen with “Summer of Soul,” Questlove’s music-filled history lesson about the Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969 that opened this year’s Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF). Theatre 5 will open with “Summer of ’85,” François Ozon’s coming-of-age gay romance, set in scenic Normandy.
The decision to reopen was made last Friday, confirmed with the St. Anthony Main Theatre’s owner on Monday and announced late yesterday. Programming Director Jesse Bishop has been busy.
“We’re excited to be on two screens to start,” Bishop said. “It gives us a bit more flexibility to bring in some higher-profile stuff but also continue our art house, independent and documentary work we’re known for.”
MSP Film Society’s occasional “Science on Screen” series will return July 12 with “Ammonite,” loosely based on the life of British paleontologist Mary Anning (Kate Winslet). The screening will be preceded by a discussion with Dr. Alex Hastings, paleontology curator at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
Friday, July 16, will bring “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain,” the highly anticipated documentary by Oscar-winning director Morgan Neville.
On Sunday, July 25, the Cat Video Fest will begin a limited engagement. (After pouncing from the Walker to CHS Field and then the Film Society, maybe now this annual compilation reel has found its forever home?)
The virtual cinema will go on. “One thing we learned is that through the virtual cinema, we can reach people who have barriers to getting to the theater,” Smoluchowski said. “We’re going to continue that into the future in some way, shape, or form.”
“We want to meet people where they’re at,” Bishop added. “There are movies we feel are part of our mission, and we want to be able to bring them to audiences.”
One of the new group of films chosen for the virtual cinema is “Against the Current,” about the first person to attempt to kayak counter-clockwise around Iceland. It will open Friday, July 2.
MSP Film Society not only survived the pandemic. It grew its membership by more than 1,000. These were “people who had never joined the Film Society before,” Smoluchowski explained. “Our current members and existing members rejoined. So we didn’t lose anybody and we gained new people.”
Meanwhile, Landmark Theatres permanently closed the Edina Cinema and was evicted from the Uptown Theatre. MSP Film Society is reopening in a market with five fewer screens for art house/international/indie films.
How might that affect the Film Society’s programming? “It’s still very early,” Bishop said. “But that’s a lot of movies that aren’t going to be offered. Being on two screens gives us an opportunity to fill in some of those gaps. There’s a lot of really good independent work coming out and on the horizon, so the future looks bright.”
“We’re really happy that we made it through this year of all years, so that we can be back in the theater,” Smoluchowski said. “Things could have been more touch-and-go, but the support we received from our members and our patrons kept us going.”
We don’t yet live (and may never live) in a post-pandemic world. For the time being, MSP Film Society will limit both of its screening rooms to two-thirdscapacity. “We decided to allow people the discretion to have a bit more room,” Smoluchowski said. Audiences are encouraged to socially distance in line and in the theaters, and to wear masks whenever possible. Concessions will be open.
The main thing is, we’ll be together again. Sitting in the same room, watching the same screen, sharing the experience of seeing a movie. As Ann Hornaday, the Washington Post’s chief film critic, wrote after seeing “In the Heights” at an elegant old theater in northwest D.C.: “The feeling last weekend at the Avalon was one of palpable joy … It was Saturday night, and we had just been to the movies. We were together. We were happy. We were home.”
Tickets are available at the Film Society’s website and the lobby. Note: The official opening day for “Summer of Soul” and “Summer of ’85” is Friday, July 2. Thursday is “pre-opening day.” This is industry language and you can go on either day.
V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.
L Tonight (Thursday, June 24), 7-9 p.m. on the Walker Art Center’s hillside: June Green Roof Poetry. Some of the best indie literary publishers in the nation are based right here in the Twin Cities. Four of them selected poets to appear in tonight’s event, each reading from his/her/their work. Hear Roy G. Guzmán, whose first collection, “Catrachos,” was published by Graywolf in 2020; torrin a. greathouse, whose “Wound from the Mouth of a Wound” was published by Milkweed in 2020; Mizna author Marlin M. Jenkins; and Sun Yung Shin, who has published three books of poetry with Coffee House Press, most recently “Unbearable Splendor” in 2016. Bring a blanket.
V Tonight (Thursday, June 24), 8 p.m: Friends of the Minnesota Orchestra: Meet a Musician/ACCENT: Osmo Vänskä and Erin Keefe. On the eve of the world premiere of Vänskä’s new “Overture” (composed during the pandemic) and Keefe’s performance of the Kurt Weill Violin Concerto with the Minnesota Orchestra, the music director and the concertmaster will play two more world premieres: Libby Larsen’s “Tarantella for Our Times” (introduced by the composer) and David Ludwig’s “Seven Circles.” The event will be hosted by Classical MPR’s Melissa Ousley. Tickets are pay-as-you-can (including free), with $30/ticket suggested. You must reserve your ticket(s) by 4 p.m. today (Thursday, June 24). FMI and reservations.
L Friday and Saturday, June 25 and 26, 9 p.m. at Caponi Art Park in Eagan: Off-Leash Area: “Mulier Dierum: Chronicles of Woman Live.” From sexual object to invisible old crone. Is this the arc of a woman’s life? With trees all around and stars overhead, this epic project will explore the strength, resilience and power of all generations of women. The cast of 40 female choral singers and eight dancers ranges in age from their 20s to their 60s. Directed and choreographed by Jennifer Ilse, created in collaboration with See Change Treble Choir under the direction of Allyss Haecker, featuring an original choral score by Linda Kachelmeier and live animation projection design by Paul Herwig, staged on a multiplatform set, this promises to be fierce and unforgettable. Note: The performances will include the prerecorded voices of all 40 singers and a small live vocal ensemble. FMI and tickets ($10-30 sliding scale).
V Wednesday, June 30, on YouTube: The Moth Virtual Mainstage featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes. Tell us a story, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Live from the United Palace in Washington Heights, the creator of “Hamilton” and “The Heights” will be joined by Hudes, Edgar Ruiz Jr. and Led Black for a soul-baring evening. Comedy writer, producer and Moth storyteller CJ Hunt will host. Virtual doors at 6:15 p.m. CST, stories begin at 6:30. FMI and tickets ($15).
L Oct. 2, 2021, at the Pantages: “Al Franken: The Only Former U.S. Senator Currently on Tour Tour.” Before he was a U.S. senator (and a really smart, good one), Franken won five Emmys for his work on “Saturday Night Live” and wrote three of his four New York Times bestsellers (including “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot” and “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them”). Today the Al Franken Podcast is one of the nation’s top 10 politics and public affairs podcasts. Franken should have plenty to say, much of it hilarious. FMI and tickets ($49, 59, 94). Tickets go on sale to the general public tomorrow (Friday, June 25) at 10 a.m. They are only available online. The State Theatre box office is closed until further notice and Hennepin Theatre Trust is not yet taking phone orders.
L Starts Nov. 5, 2021, at Orchestra Hall: Minnesota Orchestra: Music and Movies. Hearing the Minnesota Orchestra perform the soundtrack to a hit movie, live and in person, is a genuine thrill. So is watching Live at Orchestra Hall conductor Sarah Hicks keep the whole complicated thing together. As the Minnesota Orchestra returns to in-person concerts, it has put this year’s Movies and Music events up for sale in advance: Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” (Nov. 5 and 6), Disney’s “Toy Story” (Nov. 27 and 28), “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (Jan. 27- 29, 2022) and “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” (April 21-24). FMI and tickets (prices vary).