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SLFS Staff: The Unique Passage of Time in a Movie Theater

At Salt Lake Film Society, we believe that the visual stories of film are at their best on the big screen. Whether it’s the dark room, the imposing visuals, or the access to movie theater popcorn, the unique experience of watching a movie in a movie theater is not lost on our patrons, or our staff members. In our blog this week, we hear from Ally Lantz, Theater Manager at Broadway Centre Cinemas, on the amplified experience of watching her favorite director, Celine Sciamma, on the big screen.

“Why do we enjoy spending our time watching movies at a movie theater? While it’s a seemingly simple question, there are a wide variety of answers depending on who you ask. For some, it might be the popcorn and snacks, while for others it might be the communal and social viewing experience. For myself, I like watching in a theater because I enjoy being immersed in the pace of a film. Watching at home, time is beholden to our control and to our terms. You can pause and disrupt the film experience at any moment.

But in a theater you must entirely relinquish your control of time. You allow yourself to be swept up in the story’s passage of time, often experiencing time in a different way. If you are lucky, you will find yourself leaving the cinema feeling as though you have just emerged from a cocoon, where the film’s relatively brief runtime has materialized into an epic cinematic journey. 

Sciamma in The Movie Theater

This unique passage of time is why I love watching films in a theater, and is no better exemplified than through the work of Celine Sciamma, a favorite of mine. Sciamma manipulates time in the service of elevating the emotional weight of her stories. Earlier this year, she released a new film, Petite Maman, which follows an 8-year-old named Nelly after her beloved grandmother passed away. She helps her parents clean out her mother’s childhood home and what follows is a tender meditation on grief and familial relationships. 

a photo of SLFS Staff member Ally Lantz standing next to a movie theater poster for Petite Maman
Lantz standing next to the Petite Maman poster at the Broadway

Petite Maman is a film that has led me to months of decryption and contemplation. If you asked me how long a movie should be to fully explore the complex thematic content typical of Sciamma, I would say you would need something akin to a 3-hour narrative. Yet Sciamma manifests a layered epic within a brief 72 minutes.

The young girls’ interactions occur beyond the sphere of chronological time, but these characters are not in stasis, and the full weight of emotion that the more traditional passage of time would imply is still communicated effortlessly. I saw this film at our own Broadway Centre Cinemas and even with an unusually short runtime, I drifted into a sort of limbo; where literal time passage was irrelevant, it felt like days or even weeks had gone by.

The Passage of Time in Portrait of a Lady on Fire

In another Sciamma film, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, there are only a few indicators that time has passed at all, in reality and in the story. The clearest is the presence or absence of the Mother character, and upon her departure, our two female leads find themselves suspended in a timeless bubble. Within this space the characters are free to indulge in infatuation, their mutual experience undisturbed and their love permitted to develop.

When the Mother returns, this bubble suddenly bursts, and with a twisted urgency, it all begins to move too quickly. Time starts running out, and our characters become aware of the impending and unavoidable conclusion. We watch their experiences begin to transform into memories, which are altered by the emotions and complexity of their circumstances.

still of Celine Sciamma, Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel on the set of Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, and director Celine Sciamma on the set of Portrait of a Lady On Fire

This memory of mine was made possible by the insulated and attentive nature of the movie theater viewing experience (and the following dream-like state). If I had not experienced the story within the controlled theatrical environment, the impact of Sciamma’s story and the connection I felt to it would not have been possible.

If you look at Portrait of a Lady on Fire as a story told from the memory of Marianne, one of the two main characters, the intent behind the malleability of time is clear. It is her memory that alters time and the pace of this story, blending moments and experiences into the physical passage of time itself. I remember walking out of the theater after watching this film, feeling like I had just emerged from an emotional fever dream.

The experience of watching Celine Sciamma’s films has been described as “unwrapping a present from someone who loves you”; tender and intimate, and occupying not just the linear flow of moment to moment, but the space of memory and feeling. The best way to immerse yourself in this playful rendering of time is to give yourself fully to the experience. The spell may be broken if you hit pause, so please next time Sciamma or any of your favorite filmmakers releases a film, head to your nearest cinema (like Broadway Centre Cinemas). These films are made to be seen in theaters and being in one is a part of the experience you will not want to miss out on.”

To see a list of our upcoming films and events, click here.
To join our Red Carpet Club, or to learn more about RCC levels, discounts, and benefits, click here.

SLFS: Showing the Films You Love (As a Non-Profit), With Your Help

At Salt Lake Film Society, our love of cinema and belief in its power to entertain and engage our community drives the very purpose of our non-profit organization, and its mission. As a non-profit, we must make considerable and constant effort to raise the funds necessary to show the diversity of films you love on the big screen.

Our seven screens in two iconic neighborhood venues offer unique and wonderful arts experiences everyday of the year, not a small feat for a non-profit organization to accomplish. What many people may not realize is that the income from these venues covers less than ½ of our operating expenses. To bring you the best in independent, international and art house films, we must rely on the generosity of  donations from compassionate and charitable film fans and art lovers like yourself. 

We are well aware that every charitable organization and their mother is making requests for donations and support during this thanking and giving season. So instead of adding on to the pile, we just want to boast a bit about the unique impact and offerings SLFS provides to our community and suggest that after giving thanks on Thursday, and buying a few more things you probably don’t need on Friday and Monday, that you consider supporting your community’s access to independent film on Giving Tuesday (Donations on Giving Tuesday will be matched through a very generous donation from our Board Chair, Brian Rivette).

What Makes Salt Lake Film Society Special

still of Michelle Yeoh in the film Everything Everywhere All at Once, a film screened at the non-profit organization, SLFS
Contributions from supporters like you is why we can screen amazing films like Everything, Everywhere, All at Once

As a non-profit organization, our operation of two theater venues with seven total screens is quite distinctive in the art house cinema world. Not to toot our own horn too loudly, but we humbly consider SLFS to be an expansive oasis in a cinematic desert. You would be hard pressed to find another independent theater that offers more screens than the Broadway in any other state in the country not named California or New York.

This somewhat unprecedented access to quality, independent film offerings is a key component to the growth and future of the SLFS mission. It is why we have been able to continually bring a wide variety of high-quality independent films to the Salt Lake City community for over two decades.

In all of this time, we have worked diligently to strengthen our community, and showcase incredible and inspiring visual stories to as many people and underserved communities as possible. No other theater in the state of Utah has: 

    • Screened as many independent films, international films, or films that represent marginalized voices (BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, etc.)

    • Provided as many free or dramatically reduced admissions to underserved populations and non-profit community partners

    • Hosted as many culturally-focused film tours (FilmMexico, Czech, Masima, L’Chaim)

    • Programmed more unique films that weren’t screened anywhere else in the state

Sign up for the Red Carpet Club today and get discounts on tickets, and concessions!

How You Can Help Our Non-Profit

These incredible and distinct venues enable the positive impact we make on our community.  But as vital as they are to our operation and identity, we can’t rely entirely on them: less than ½ our annual expenses are covered by ticket and concession sales. Income generated from these venues is crucial to our organization’s ability to show independent film, but the fact of the matter is that we rely much more so on the contributions of generous people and organizations to keep our doors open and our projectors running.

So if you have any funds leftover after the indulgent, capitalist pursuit that always occurs in the days following Thanksgiving, we’d love for you to consider supporting independent cinema, by contributing to your local, non-profit art house theater! And there’s more than a few ways you can do this:

Red Carpet Club – One of the best ways to support SLFS (and support your access to independent cinema) is by becoming a member of our Red Carpet Club! Get discounts on tickets and concessions, and build up rewards to save even more, all while supporting your local art house cinema.

Gift Membership – Rushing to find a good last-second gift? Shopping for someone who wants experiences over items? Consider a Gift Membership to our Red Carpet Club! Give your loved ones even more reason to support independent film, and combine it with a concessions package to really deliver a memorable experience that everyone can enjoy.

Ask Your Employer to Sponsor – The Salt Lake City business community does a good job of looking out for each other, and we always love to make more connections! Bring up the idea of sponsorship with SLFS at the organization you work for, and be the first domino that helps your local independent theater receive local support in a big way.

Donate – Whether it’s a one-time add-on to your next ticket purchase or a recurring monthly donation through our Red Carpet Club program, every little bit helps! Your support is why we are able to do what we do, and whatever you can manage means more to us than you know. (But we’ll be sure to thank you many times over, with some sweet perks throughout the year.)

Support SLFS Today

If you enjoy the visual stories of independent film in friendly, locally-run venues, and you appreciate the passion and perspective SLFS provides to the Salt Lake City community, support us today. Take a real step to show that access to cinema matters to you. Support Salt Lake Film Society this holiday season and enjoy great cinema all year long.

To join our Red Carpet Club, click here.

To purchase a Gift Membership, click here.

To learn more about sponsorship with SLFS, click here.

To make a donation, click here. And if you would like to see your donation matched, all donations given on Giving Tuesday, November 29th, will be matched through a generous donation from our Board Chair, Brian Rivette.

SLFS Staff: A Closer Look at Diversity Tropes in The Horror Genre

As Allhallows Eve fast approaches, SLFS and it’s staff are proud to embrace the festivities of spooky season, through horror classics we screen every weekend for Tower of Terror, and of course our upcoming Rocky Horror Picture Show. In our blog this week, we hear from Patrick Charles, Theater Manager at Broadway Centre Cinemas and mastermind behind numerous giveaways and decorations for Summer Showdown and Tower of Terror, as he takes a closer look at the diversity tropes associated with horror films.

As the world has slowly become more conscientious of antidiscrimination and diverse representation in the 21st century, the diversity of characters in film has become a welcome priority. However, in the horror genre, because of its intense and often socially taboo content, there are some discriminatory tropes and stereotypes of minority characters that continue to be unfairly associated with the genre.

A still of Regina Hall and Ghost Face in the horror movie spoof, Scary Movie
The Scary Movie franchise, known for spoofing horror films and their tropes, has likely reinforced the perception of these tropes and their frequency

Two of the most common of these tropes include the role of BIPOC characters, and the role of women, and their treatment and depiction in horror films. For BIPOC characters, the trope is that their presence in a horror film is usually tokenistic, and they will likely be an early victim of the killer, if not the first victim. In the case of female characters, the assumption is that horror films are misogynistic, because women are often represented through sexual and violent objectification of their bodies. However, we rarely take the time to consider how common or accurate these tropes and assumptions really are.

In the genre of horror, the role and depiction of BIPOC and women characters has been more favorable than one is led to believe. This brief blog post will take a look at some of the misconceptions regarding these tropes, the reality of their representation in the current and past worlds of horror, and how many horror films have been ahead of the times in regards to representation and respect of diversity. 

The BIPOC Character Dies First

“Brothers don’t last long in situations like this”

Joel (Duane Martin), Scream 2

Variations of this saying have permeated popular culture surrounding horror films for years. The black character dies first, we hear it time and time again, more recently echoed in horror spoofs such as Scary Movie (2000) and its subsequent sequels. This trope that has permeated both the horror world and transferred over to popular culture has become a long running joke; if a person of color is in any type of horror film, they will likely be killed off first. The perception is that horror films use these characters to further their diversity quotas and body counts. 

Now while this trope has existed in some horror movies, the reality is that in many of the genre’s most well-known and acclaimed films, BIPOC characters have not only survived, but thrived. We see important BIPOC characters in numerous George Romero movies, whose films and presence are iconic for the genre. Dawn of the Dead (1978), arguably the most popular of Romero’s original “Dead Trilogy”, brought the world Ken Foree playing the character of Peter.

a still of Ken Foree in the horror film Dawn of the Dead
Ken Foree, who plays Peter in Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Foree gives an amazing performance and plays a character who triumphs in the world of horror. Peter makes smart choices, is level headed when others are not, and is one of the few characters who survives the whole film (a rarity for any horror film character). Duane Jones, who portrays Ben in Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) is another smart and capable character who survives almost until the very end, and Tony Todd, who played Ben in Tom Savini’s 1990 remake, furthered the depth of the iconic character even more.

John Carpenter is another director who has cast BIPOC characters in his iconic films, characters who last much longer than the common tropes would have us believe. Keith David stars in Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), playing the character of Childs, and while David is not the main star, Childs is a nuanced and well-developed character, untrusting of every other character, yet ambiguously surviving to the very end. 

BIPOC characters are obviously not stand-out characters in every horror film, but importantly, the trope of their early death is a bit of a misconception. In fact, one can argue that the most iconic films and directors in the cinematic world of horror have been at the forefront of BIPOC representation. Their casting and storylines for BIPOC characters, especially in a mid-to-late 20th century which had yet to prioritize respectful representation, were impressively ahead of the curve.

Objectification of Women Through Sex and Violence

Another consistent character trope that horror film is often associated with is the sexual and violent objectification of women. Unfortunately, aspects of this stereotype are still prevalent in the genre, whether it’s the ridiculous, skimpy outfits or nude scenes that frequent most of the Friday the 13th films, or the excessively gory and brutal killing of female characters in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. 

However, there is another trope, one that is arguably even more prevalent in the genre, that challenges this objectification. “Final Girls” are typically the sole female character that survives the entire movie before eventually besting or killing the main antagonist, and horror films from the ‘80’s are filled with them, including some genre juggernauts like Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser, Friday the 13th, and so on. The “Final Girl” has been a staple of horror films for decades, and through the emphasis of female empowerment and the conquering of often-male killers, offers an important contrast against the misogynistic label often placed on horror films.

a still of Jamie Lee Curtis from the horror film Halloween
Jamie Lee Curtis, the original “Final Girl”, in Halloween (1978)

Jamie Lee Curtis, as the character of Laurie Strode in Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), is the original “Final Girl”. Laurie is a shy and reserved babysitter who ultimately puts up a valiant fight against Michael Myers, protecting the children she is watching, and Curtis went on to reprise the character several more times, most recently as 2018. While Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Clark’s Black Christmas (1974) were popular preludes to the slasher era, Halloween is considered by many to be the first true slasher film, ushering in a golden era of slasher movies and “Final Girls” in the 1980’s. 

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) is another example of an iconic film with an iconic “Final Girl”. Heather Langenkamp plays the role of Nancy Thompson, who faces off against the nightmare-stalking maniac Freddy Kruger. Nancy does her research, makes a plan, and takes Freddy down, and although her survival is left rather ambiguous, she does return in Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3 (1987). While Nightmare came a little later in the ‘80’s than the vast majority of iconic slashers, it still embraced the power of the female protagonist that Halloween had laid the groundwork for.

From Sigourney Weaver in Ridley Scott’s Alien to Mia Goth in Ti West’s X, “Finals Girls” have been an inherent presence in any film over the last five decades that incorporates horror elements. While there are unfortunately plenty of examples of misogynistic attitudes toward women in some horror movies, “Final Girls” have continuously offered an important juxtaposition to those examples.

The “Final Girl” is a role that fights against forms of evil or otherworldly threats, a role that is seen as a protector, as well as a betterment to the world of horror movies. Ultimately, it is a role which has established an important trope that counteracts and may eventually prevail against the more misogynistic trends of the genre.

To see a list of our upcoming films and events, click here.
To join our Red Carpet Club, or to learn more about RCC levels, discounts, and benefits, click here.

SLFS is spooky on Letterboxd! Find curated lists of horror films from SLFS Staff, including the films mentioned in this post, here.

Follow us on Letterboxd for more updates and recommendations.

Arthouse Audience Survey

UPDATE: This survey is now closed. We will contact winners via email in the next week.

It’s that time of year… We need your help! We want you to tell us what you think you need and want from your movie-going experience, and how we might improve.

Help us out by filling out this Arthouse Survey by 10/23. Click on the link, fill it out, and you’ll be added to a drawing for $50 certificate and two $25 certificates:

Thank you so much for taking your time to fill this out. SLFS is looking for ways to continue bringing the best in cinema to SLC.

SLFS Staff: My Experience Watching Dune at the Broadway

At SLFS, we have always been proud of exhibiting thought-provoking films to our Salt Lake City community. And as members of this community and local film fans ourselves, the staff of SLFS have always cherished the opportunity to join in on the audience viewing experience. We asked Max Kunz, Theater Manager at Broadway Centre Cinemas, to share his experience watching Dune at the Broadway during our reopening in 2021.

The SLFS Dune Experience at Broadway Centre Cinemas

“As a staff member at Salt Lake Film Society, one of the things I like most about it is the commitment to serving the film loving community in Utah in unexpected ways. At the Broadway, we have six screens that supply a wide selection of arthouse and blockbuster cinema. Each screen is equipped with high-quality digital projection and Dolby theater surround sound systems, providing a unique high-quality entertainment experience you’d expect from the larger commercial branded theaters. 

“I can appreciate even more how seeing a film like Dune in a real theater like the Broadway Centre Cinemas makes the experience exceptional.”

Max Kunz
the film Dune playing in an SLFS theater, the Broadway Centre Cinemas
A theater screening of Dune at Broadway Centre Cinemas

To connect our audience with the large supply of new films released, we have all of our theaters on a constantly shifting show schedule. This means that if a film has completed its standard theatrical run, we have the option to return that feature for an additional run, provided it is cleared by the studio. This flexibility in our booking allows SLFS to customize our film exhibitions for the needs of its community when a film gains some attendance traction after its initial run, or earns accolades from a film institution. An example of this custom exhibition presented itself to me this year through Dune

I had unfortunately missed the initial theater run for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune and didn’t think I’d get another chance to see it in the theater setting, which was how I had heard it was meant to be enjoyed. Luckily, the Broadway brought back the film after it was nominated for several Academy Awards and I was able to catch it!

Dune is the story of the noble family Atreides who is given stewardship of the planet Dune by their Emperor, but Dune is a harsh planet covered in desert and a special drug called spice. The story of the film follows young Paul Atreides who is wrapped up in the war, chaos, prescience, and death that the coveted spice from Dune brings to his family. 

SLFS employee Max listening to Dune on audiobook in the lobby of Broadway Centre Cinemas
Kunz enjoying Dune in audiobook format

I was captivated by the stunning visuals and stellar performances in what was an all around very entertaining movie. In a film that deals with gigantic spaceships and an original soundtrack that shakes with them, the state of the art theatrical systems that are used to present films at Salt Lake Film Society created an extremely overpowering experience. I appreciated what an entirely different experience it was, compared to watching it at home on a laptop screen like I had been planning on doing prior to the re-screening (especially after such a long shutdown due to COVID-19).  

Seeing Dune in this way influenced me to research the world that Frank Herbert had created; looking at Google I saw how long the saga was and YouTube videos ensnared me into its lore. Fully nerding out, I bought the books on Audible and have since listened to the story of the first three books in the six book series. Now a bonafide Dune fan, and having some insight into the scale of the story and its contents, I can appreciate even more how seeing a film like Dune in a real theater like the Broadway Centre Cinemas makes the experience exceptional.”

To see a list of our upcoming films and events, click here.
To join our Red Carpet Club, or to learn more about RCC levels, discounts, and benefits, click here.

Tower Theatre Update Fall 2022

"While we don't have a reopening date yet, our goal is preservation of the Tower Theatre and also the neighborhood of 9th and 9th as a unique hub for neighbors and friends who support safe spaces for diverse communities to gather."

Here’s the full statement from our own Tori Baker, CEO & Executive Director at SLFS:

“Welcome to the 9th & 9th neighborhood and the Historic Tower Theatre. We are currently under renovation.

Salt Lake Film Society, your local nonprofit cinema organization, has a mission to EXHIBIT, CREATE, & PRESERVE the big-screen experience. Our amazing nonprofit staff is working with construction partners to reveal a renovated lobby, ADA improvements, and other upgrades.

While we don’t have a reopening date yet, our goal is preservation of the Tower Theatre and also the neighborhood of 9th and 9th as a unique hub for neighbors and friends who support safe spaces for diverse communities to gather.

Throughout 2022 we have been working on exterior repairs, including interior planning, drawings and design. We’ve also been committed to fund development, assessments and meetings with our 9th and 9th neighbors on neighborhood preservation ideas. 

We are happy to report that the auditorium repainting, plus ceiling sound panels and video/DVD archive and library assessment are well under way. SLFS has received a pristine collection of 15,000 DVDs to add to our archive and will begin working on the vision for the archive’s return to the newly remodeled lobby.

While we are renovating, see curated films at our Broadway Centre Cinemas location, including traditional Tower programming such as Rocky Horror Picture Show, Tower of Terror, and the most innovative cinematic presentations of independent film in our state.”

You can be part of the preservation of the Tower as a Salt Lake Film Society Red Carpet Club subscriber or donor.

Tower Theatre circa 1940s/1950s

SLFS Board: Sarah E. S. Sinwell and the Pursuit of Art House Cinema

In any non-profit organization, the Board of Directors plays a vital role in planning for funding, growth, and subsequently helping achieve their mission. At Salt Lake Film Society, our Board embodies the organization’s passion for film and art house cinema, and they are deeply committed to our mission of educating, advocating, and informing about –and through– cinema.

For local cinephile and vice-chair of the SLFS Board, Sarah E. S. Sinwell, this commitment to film and independent cinema started long before she ever heard of Salt Lake Film Society. “My family were always big film lovers growing up; I’ve been watching movies with them and going to art houses my whole life.” However, it wasn’t until college when she truly discovered her passion, not just for film, but for analyzing the art and the industry of independent cinema.

“I was studying to be a diplomat, taking political science classes and the like. In my sophomore year, I missed out on my first choice for a seminar, and the seminar I ended up taking was my first film class. When I graduated, I tried being a production assistant, made a few short films, but I soon realized that I would much rather analyze film than make it.”

Educating Through Art House Cinema Analysis

an image of Sarah Sinwell, local art house cinema expert and vice chair of SLFS board
Sinwell became a member of the SLFS Board of Directors in 2015

When she moved to Utah in 2015, Sinwell continued her cinema journey by joining the Department of Film and Media Arts at the University of Utah as an assistant professor. Now an associate professor, she has applied her devotion to art houses and film analysis through teaching, and writing books and scholarly articles. 

It didn’t take long for her art house cinema expertise and the mission of Salt Lake Film Society to align. “When I moved here, Kevin Hanson (SLFS board member and colleague at the U) immediately told me, ‘You need to meet Tori [Baker], and you need to be a part of the Film Society’, and I was invited to join [the Board] just a few months after that.”

Unsurprisingly, Sinwell’s initial interactions with Salt Lake Film Society were as a patron. “I’m a huge cinephile, I write about art houses, I write about independent films, I write about feminist and queer filmmaking, and the Broadway and the Tower are the places to go to see the best independent films in town, and the best independent films internationally, so I was pretty excited about even attending a film at the Tower/Broadway.”

For Sinwell, being a member of the SLFS Board was also an important part of her personal introduction to Utah, and the Salt Lake City film scene. “It was my first time living/moving here, so [joining the SLFS Board] was a big part of my learning about Utah, and about film culture in Utah.”

“People are seeking out the theater experience, because they’ve missed it. I was at the reopening of the Broadway in 2021, and my friends and I kept saying ‘This is the experience we have been missing’”

She was able to further supplement her studies, writings, and analysis of art houses and independent cinemas, because what better way to learn how an art house works than by being a part of one? “Being a part of the board has really taught me all about the in’s and outs of how non-profits and art houses work. I had no idea, for instance, how much a popcorn popper actually costs.” Sinwell said.

“I’ve really been involved, not just in the Film Society, but in thinking about the state of the art house at the moment when streaming is becoming more popular, and knowing this [type of] institution from the inside is invaluable to understanding the challenges that many art houses face” Sinwell continued.

Enjoying Independent Film At SLFS

The reciprocal relationship between Sinwell’s educational pursuits and her experience on the SLFS Board is an important part of her impact on the Salt Lake City film scene. But like any fan of independent film, nothing really compares to the personal enjoyment of watching an engaging and thought-provoking visual story on the big screen. For Sinwell, watching Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady On Fire at Broadway Centre Cinemas offered this type of unforgettable viewing experience.

“I saw Portrait of a Lady On Fire (2019) for the first time at the Broadway. Sciamma is one of my favorite directors, and I wanted to show it to everyone. I liked it so much, I saw it again, and the second viewing was the last film I saw in a theater for two years after COVID shutdown the Broadway” Sinwell remembered.

For those who have seen it, the lasting impression of Sciamma’s critically acclaimed film would be memorable even without the subsequent lockdown that occurred due to COVID-19. But it was the theater experience, and the insights and discussions with her friends afterwards that truly cemented Sinwell’s experience as noteworthy.

“One of these [POLOF] viewings was a sneak preview I went to with some friends and colleagues, and it was so inspiring. My colleague who studies music talked to me about some really interesting things the film does with music and sound, and I used aspects of femininity and ‘gaze’ from the film in my Queer Media class that I teach.” 

Supporting the Community Role of Art House Cinema

As someone who has experienced the profound nature of the independent theater viewing experience first-hand, Sinwell is well aware of how important art houses are to their local communities, especially as COVID restrictions are lifted. “For many people, watching movies was their pandemic lockdown activity. Now, people are seeking out the theater experience, because they’ve missed it. I was at the reopening of the Broadway in 2021 when we screened Dune (2021), and my friends and I kept saying ‘This is the experience we have been missing’ you know, watching a film with others in a theater, and talking about it after.”

As an SLFS board member, Sinwell has both supported, and helped realize the larger aim of using film as a learning tool for social good. “SLFS shows unique films. We are purposefully putting these films on our screens, films that other people might not find otherwise. People are being introduced to other stories and cultures through these films.”

the cover of the book Indie cinema online, a book about art house cinema written by Sarah Sinwell
Indie Cinema Online is Sinwell’s newest book, and explores the challenges and growth of art house cinema

“Our films and cultural tours [like Czech Film Tour or FilmMéxico] let you imagine what it’s like to live in the Czech Republic, or Mexico, or live the female experience [in films like POLOF]. It’s an opportunity to explore what the future and history both hold” Sinwell added.

After stories of her introduction to loving film, writing and teaching film analysis, and how she became a vital member of the SLFS Board, there was one final piece of insight Sinwell had to offer on the age-old question: butter or no butter on your theater popcorn? “Definitely butter. But if it’s a matinee at the Broadway, I always get a slice of Pie Hole pizza and a Coke.”

Given our mission to educate, advocate, and inform about and through cinema , there are few people more suited to the task of vice-chair of the SLFS Board of Directors than Sarah E. S. Sinwell, and we are lucky to have her. 

You can read some of her scholarly articles analyzing art house cinemas and how they have handled the COVID-19 pandemic here, and here. For information about her new book Indie Cinema Online, and other published work. click here.

To see a list of our upcoming films and events, click here.
To join our Red Carpet Club, or to learn more about RCC levels, discounts, and benefits, click here.

Why SLFS Believes in the Independent Theater Experience

For some of us, film can provide a form of escape. When we sit down to watch a movie (for instance, at an independent theater) we enter another world. It could be a fantasy world, or a world from the past, or a world that strikingly resembles our own. Like a dream, film gives us a place where our minds can seize the opportunity to get away from the thoughts and troubles of our reality, and imagine the undertaking of new experiences and perspectives. All films, and especially good ones, captivate their audience by nurturing this escape, feeding a string of environments, characters, and stories into these worlds that help us relate, and engage with their premise. 

But as personally enchanting as the visual stories of film can be, sometimes we don’t quite notice that this activity can be supported, and even enhanced when we share it with others on the big screen in a movie theater. The maximized visuals and audio of the theater can reinforce the power of any film, and when we partake in this experience with others, looking at the same screen in the same room, with friends, family, or strangers, we come closer together. In the moment, we experience both physically and mentally that dreaming, imagining and exploring with others is a deeply human need, and one that we all share.

Film is a powerful vehicle for creating this intimate connection between total strangers, and it’s at the heart of what we offer the Salt Lake City community at Salt Lake Film Society. We show diverse and engaging independent films that help open minds and hearts, and provide experiences outside of ourselves that bring us closer to others. And through our independent theaters, we are committed to creating and nurturing community spaces where everyone can have shared experiences with one another. 

Why The Big Screen Matters

SLFS believes in the big screen independent theater experience and the power of communal cinema, and we want to tell you why. Movie theaters have always been a pillar of the art of film, and the entertainment industry since the first ones started popping up in the late 19th century. But lately, with the modern era of streaming and nearly unlimited digital access to films becoming the norm, movie theaters have taken a bit of a hit over the years. For some, the convenience of at-home viewing has seemingly started to outweigh the big-screen movie theater experience.

But for many others, there is no substitute for the big screen independent cinema experience and the value it adds to their viewing experience. When you buy a ticket and you take your seat at a theater, you are making a purposeful commitment of attention to both the film and the story. It’s much harder to not engage when the screen nearly takes up your entire field of vision and the sound has the ability to shake your bones.

a photo of an empty auditorium at the Tower Theater, an independent theater in SLC
An empty audience at Tower Theatre, the oldest movie theater in the Salt Lake Valley still in operation. Photo Credit: Purple Moss Photography.

Car engines rumble loudly, wide vistas appear truly expansive, and the quiet tension of a killer stalking their victim is heard and felt throughout the theater. When you watch a film in a theater, the specificity of what you see, hear, and feel is amplified, and consequently amplifies the experience of the story too. You become immersed in it mind, body, and emotions.

But don’t just take our word for it. According to Jeffery Zacks, a professor of psychology at Washington University, the real-life stimuli and the empathetic reasoning that often produces emotion in our lives is not only replicated, but it’s intensified when we watch a movie. “In real life, we see people who cry and we watch bad things happen — all these things make us feel sad. But in a movie, you crank those things up to 11… [a filmmaker] can control exactly what’s shown, and what else is present.” 

Zacks says this effect is even stronger when it comes to watching a film in a theater. “Bigger screens also produce more robust responses… you’re sitting in a dark room where everything else is cut off, the viewer has much less opportunity to walk away or focus on other things… it’s just taking the mechanisms that we encounter in real life and just really pushing all the buttons at once.”

The Independent Theater Experience

The sensory amplification of watching a movie on the big screen is a critical part of why the theater experience makes for a significantly superior experience, but it’s not the only reason. While distractions from not-so-respectful movie-goers can leave a bad taste in one’s mouth, we can’t forget the many positive ways in which communal cinema is powerful and an incredibly humanizing experience.

a photo of the audience sitting down for a movie at an independent theater
Moviegoers sitting down for a film at Broadway

Watching a film with others in a movie theater heightens the empathy, sympathy and connectedness of communal engagement through visual storytelling. Sharing laughs, gasps, and quietly sad moments with friends and strangers is how people become more present with each other. These shared experiences of emotion and physical responses reaffirm the themes, messages, and emotions that a film is trying to convey. The immersive physical space, along with the shared emotional responses is why films seen in a real independent cinema foster more empathy and compassion for people you don’t even know.

For independent theaters like Broadway Centre Cinemas and Tower Theatre that focus on showing independent films, this effect is even more powerful. We make it our mission to not only show thought-provoking films, but to also create a safe and accepting place where people can comfortably experience these stories, thoughts, and feelings with each other. It is our hope that  the empathetic and social bonding that begins on the screen, will continue outside of the theater and into the conversations, ruminations, and lives of our moviegoers long after the credits roll.

Independent Cinema in Salt Lake City – SLFS

At Salt Lake Film Society, we believe deeply in the positive power of communal cinema to improve society, especially when it takes place through the big-screen independent theater experience. SLFS is proud to provide consistent, affordable access to inspiring stories that the  community can share with each other. Through the films we show and the atmosphere we cultivate, we believe communal cinema can foster passionate conscientiousness in our community. So come join us (and your fellow community members) for a film! It just might change your life.

To see a list of our upcoming films and events, click here.
To join our Red Carpet Club, or to learn more about RCC levels, discounts, and benefits, click here.

What Is an Independent Film?

The film industry as a whole releases a wide variety of movies each year. While there is an extensive range of stories and types of film in circulation, there are also some important distinctions regarding how films are made, funded, and distributed. You might have heard of “independent films” or “indie movies”, but understanding what actually qualifies as one, and why independent theaters focus on showing them is a bit more complicated.

Salt Lake Film Society operates two independent theaters and we take a lot of pride in the films we show in Salt Lake City. Many of these films, from gripping foreign dramas to small-budget, local documentaries, can be classified as independent films. But we also exhibit and enjoy plenty of films that are created within the major studio system as well. 

This is not to say that one film type is inherently better than the other; there will always be amazing films being made and incredible stories being told, whether independently or studio-supported. At Salt Lake Film Society, we just believe that understanding and contextualizing the differences between independent films and studio films is a part of being a conscientious and engaged cinephile.  

Distinctions Between Independent Films and Studio Films

While there can be plenty of noticeable differences between the experience of watching an independent vs. a studio-supported film, the more clear cut differences usually lie behind the scenes. For the audience, these differences can be evident in the types of stories told and the contrast in creative decisions made. But the differentiating factors that can more clearly distinguish the two revolve around the production and distribution processes, and the respective financial situations of each film type’s budget. 

The definition of what constitutes an independent production can be somewhat muddled, but the most defining trait of an independent film is that it is produced and distributed outside the “major” film studio system. Studio films on the other hand, are defined by their production through a studio owned by one of the “Big 5” media conglomerates (NBC/Comcast, Paramount, Disney, Warner Bros, Sony). These studio films are also funded and distributed by massive production companies that operate under the umbrella of these media conglomerates. 

still of Daniel Kaluuya in the independent film Get Out
Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out, independently produced by Blumhouse Productions

While many independent films are made by individual filmmakers, many are still made by film studios, albeit smaller ones. But an important consideration is that these films usually don’t have a guaranteed distribution network or production funding like the larger studios with their parent companies. Independent films need to scrap and source for producers and distributors almost from day one.

Sometimes, these more independent-focused distributors (A24, Neon, Blumhouse) will fund a project at the beginning, sometimes they purchase it halfway through or after it’s made, but the search for funds and distribution is a relentless necessity that characterizes most independent films. That’s why these films often dominate the film festival circuit (and why most festivals even exist in the first place); these filmmakers are showing off their product to distributors with the hope of it being purchased, and distributed.

While there is no specific dollar amount that separates an independent film budget from a studio film budget, spending range is another major factor that distinguishes these two film types. Independent film budgets can range vastly, from tens of thousands dollars to tens of millions, and occasionally will even require fundraising to finish production and find distributors. Studio film budgets will also vary quite substantially, but their upper limits are astronomically higher, with some studio films working with predetermined budgets that can range up to half a billion dollars. 

Different Motivations, Different Expectations

This large contrast in monetary and distribution processes consequently leads to a variety of differences in production, artistic influence, and definitions of success. Studio films are often formulaic and controlled by senior management from start to finish, and while the production needs vary from film to film, they always maintain some form of uniformity in operation, staffing, and expenses. Independent film productions are more free-form, following the direction and desire of the producers and their artistic vision, often sourcing staff, equipment, and money as they go along. 

still of penelope cruz, johnny depp, and ian mcshane in pirates of the Caribbean: stranger tides
Penélope Cruz, Johnny Depp, and Ian McShane in Pirates of the Caribbean: Stranger Tides, the most expensive film ever made with a budget over $400 million

These creative and production differences understandably lead to clear differences in motivation for producing the film, and what defines a film’s release as successful. Studio films and the stories they tell are much more likely to have the biggest names and the grandest visual effects, and are often made with the primary goal of commercial success. There has never been a studio film made that hasn’t undergone rigorous financial calculations by studio executives beforehand regarding the potential money it might bring in. These films are usually designed to cater to as many people as possible, in order to maximize  attendance and box office revenue (often to recoup some of the expenditures from their immense budgets).

Independent films (and the independent theaters that proudly and consistently show them) have different motivations. These films usually put more emphasis on the art of storytelling, and presenting the perspective of a wide diversity of voices. They often don’t cater to the largest possible audience. Instead, they aim to craft a narrative that makes the audience take a mental step back and ask questions, like “Who?”, “What?”, or “Why?”. Independent films are not totally free from the industry’s financial expectations, but their purpose will usually be more driven towards the limitless freedom of artistic expression, the introspection of the audience, and the diversity of filmmakers, experiences, and stories that naturally comes from that.

Muddied Definitions of “Studio” and “Independent” Films

For any fan of film who has explored the varied types of stories and styles the industry has to offer, it’s clear that there are some distinctive differences between smaller budget, “art house” indie films, and bigger budget, franchise-spawning studio films. But just like the real world, the conversation and categorization is a bit more nuanced than that. In reality, most films do not sit neatly in one category or the other, or their content doesn’t fit the archetype expected from their production and funding.

still of John Corbett and Nia Vardalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding
John Corbett and Nia Vardalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, an independent film which grossed $369 million, with only a $5 million budget

Big studio films can spend big while still emphasizing diverse narratives and more artistically-driven creators (consider Taika Waititi now directing Thor: Ragnarok and Thor: Love and Thunder). On the other hand, independent films with small budgets can still tell more generalized stories that aim for studio-esque commercial success (the independent rom-com, My Big Fat Greek Wedding grossed $368.7 million worldwide). While some may call these exceptions to the rule, others might say that the definitions are simply more muddied in the modern film era. And when it comes to streaming services now consistently producing and distributing their own content, the conversation can become even more complicated.

Independent Theaters in Salt Lake City – SLFS

At Salt Lake Film Society we are proud to exhibit thought-provoking stories and inspiring films to our community through our independent theaters, whether they be niche independent films or widespread studio films. Our goal as a independent cinema is less about properly defining film as “independent” or “studio”, and more about cultivating in our audience a natural curiosity about each film they see, learning more about who made it, how they made it, why they made it, and what creators or organizations they are supporting by purchasing a ticket for it. 

Our independent theaters love to present independent films that emphasize art, culture, and underrepresented voices, but we all have plenty of studio films that we adore. We just love film, and we love the questions and conversations it can produce, so come see a movie and join the discussion, and learn a bit more about different types of film yourself.

To see a list of our upcoming films and events, click here.
To join our Red Carpet Club, or to learn more about RCC levels, discounts, and benefits, click here.

Why SLFS Matters to Us

When it comes to film as an art form and determining its importance to our community, Salt Lake Film Society might have some fairly strong opinions with regards to this discussion. The mission of our organization is focused on utilizing the power that film has to inspire and educate our community, and our team here at SLFS is highly motivated to help achieve that mission. We love film, but more importantly, we deeply believe in film’s importance, as well as our role in providing access to it in Salt Lake City.

For many of our staff here, the independent theaters we operate, the independent films that we show, and Salt Lake Film Society itself have a deeper purpose and relevance to us than just being our jobs. Many of us have lived in the Salt Lake City area for a long time, and we have had our own amazing experiences at Tower or Broadway, whether seeing a local documentary with a Q&A after, or rediscovering a classic during a Summer Late Night showing.

Our love and respect for the art form of film translates not only into the care we put into our jobs, but reminds us everyday why SLFS matters not just to Salt Lake City, but also to its staff who whole-heartedly strive to achieve its mission.

A Legacy of Independent Film in Salt Lake City

Many of our team have lived the Salt Lake Film Society experience, both as staff and as patrons or members. We’ve been to see movies at the Broadway Centre Cinemas or Tower Theatre as simply local cinephiles, and we have seen Salt Lake City grow and grow and grow over the years. But a critical part of why SLFS matters so much to our team comes from the legacy of our impact in the Salt Lake City community. We have been operating our independent theaters in the Salt Lake Valley for over two decades now, with core staff members who were there at the beginning still working at SLFS today.

photo of the Tower theater with a blank marquee and people lined up outside
                                       Tower Theatre in 2016

With such entrenched roots in not only the local art house film scene, but the existence and mission of Salt Lake Film Society itself, our staff continues to take plenty of pleasure and pride in supporting a vibrant cultural and arts community in our city. We are truly fulfilled by what we do, and this fulfillment is exemplified through programs like our annual Cultural Film Tours (Masima: Pacific Island, Filméxico, Climate Change Film Tour, L’Chaim Jewish Film Tour).

Creating local partnerships, sharing impactful stories, and organizing panel discussions that take the discourse from the big-screen and into the realities and solutions of the world is the quintessential, cross-cultural impact we have, not just as an organization, but as people who live in and care about Salt Lake City too.

The Independent Theater Experience

While the lasting social impact that we hope to have in Salt Lake City is a driving force behind why SLFS matters to us, one of the more tangible manifestations of our mission is preserving the independent theater experience. We are purposeful in the programming of films we offer, and the experience of watching these films on the big-screen with other people remains the soul of our organization.

a full movie theater at Broadway Centre Cinemas, viewed from the back with a sponsorship message on screen
                                  Broadway Centre Cinemas

Communal cinema is indescribably powerful. When people can be present with each other, existing in the same space, watching the same film, and sharing a common physical, mental, and emotional experience, it fosters an intimacy with your fellow person that is foundational to cultivating tolerance, compassion, and human decency, through the arts.

At Salt Lake Film Society, we are beyond passionate about our role in offering this theater experience to others, mainly because we’ve experienced its magic ourselves time and time again. Sharing tears, laughs, and morally-challenging revelations with total strangers is a transcendent and liberating human experience. Through our independent theaters, Tower and Broadway, we are proud to bring these experiences to our community, and create a welcoming space for people to watch, connect, and introspect.

Independent Theaters in Salt Lake City – Salt Lake Film Society

To many of our patrons, members, and community supporters, Salt Lake Film Society matters as much to them as it does to us. We couldn’t be prouder of how supportive and committed our community continues to be. Our non-profit organization has worked diligently to support the amplification of diversity, engage the hearts and minds of our community, and uphold the legacy of exhibiting quality independent films in Salt Lake City.

Through our work and our engagement, SLFS has become a vital contributor to actualizing the belief that we can have a positive impact in this world we live in. To its staff, Salt Lake Film Society matters a great deal to us; our work is more than just a paycheck, it’s a mission that we truly believe in, and we come to work everyday to make our community feel the same.

If you feel a similar importance and passion about Salt Lake Film Society, and its impact on your life and your community, please let us know. We would love to hear more about the stories and experiences of our patrons and members, and publish them on this blog for others to see. Email for more details.