"You're showing films to people they wouldn't normally see," Tim Swallow of Cincinnati World Cinema says.
That's the essence of what his 16-year-old independent cinema-loving organization is all about. For years, the CWC has shown art house and independent films that don't make it to mainstream multiplexes in the area. But instead of having a brick and mortar theater, they rented space from other venues all over town. Memorial Hall, the Cincinnati Art Museum, The Carnegie (Covington), and even the old Showboat Majestic all made space for CWC's silver screen.
As of last month, though, that changed. Downtown Cincinnati is now home to the CWC's Garfield Theatre, a dedicated single-screen auditorium located in the space formerly occupied by Cincinnati Shakespeare Co. right off Piatt Park.
To Tim and the 60 volunteers who make CWC a reality, there's a pressing need for independent cinema.
“These days, it’s mainstream. And a lot of times, art house films are perceived as being this pinprick of blue light that’s dropping through a red cloud in terms of the mindset of the local people,” Tim says. “You don’t have to have a cocked eyebrow or a film snob attitude to be able to enjoy [them].”
IMPETUS FOR THE OBSCURE
Tim is a product of 1940s America. During summer in the '50s, his mother would take him downtown to the Albee Theatre, which once stood on Fountain Square where the Westin Hotel is now. He'd shadow the maintenance guy, learning about how film projection worked while exploring other theaters in the city. That, he says, was where his love affair with cinema began.
"I had no idea film would become a passion for me. I just thought it was cool," he says.
His interest in projection and theater machinery was prophetic; in the '70s, he worked as a technical contractor for rock shows, helping bands and traveling musicians look and sound their best. Stints in arts marketing (including becoming the Ensemble Theatre's first board president), years of software consulting, and moving to Caracas, Venezuela in the 1990s followed. When he moved back and retired in Cincinnati, he indulged his childhood interest in film.
The arthouse and niche-interest flicks he once saw at Movies Repertory, ironically in the same space his Garfield Theatre occupies today, fueled his desire for more. He started CWC in January of 2002 to quench his thirst.
His vision for the Garfield Theatre differs slightly from the shows CWC still does at Memorial Hall. "Small-footprint films," which he describes as both feature-length or short films without much promotion or buzz around them, will generally find a place at Garfield on its 16'x9' screen.
With an OPPO deck that upscales a 1080p projector to near 4K quality, standard movie concessions, and a social hour that precedes each show at Butcher & Barrel across the street, the Garfield is the newest contender in entertainment among even the Hollywood-supported multiplexes.
Its schedule, Tim says, will remain "fluid" for the time being. If you want to see a show at the Garfield Theatre, a list of movies and showtimes are listed on CWC's website.
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Cincinnati World Cinema's Garfield Theatre is located at 719 Race Street.