Cinema Detroit: Inclusion & Faygo Under The Same Roof

By Sarah Bricker-Hunt

When co-owners Paula Guthat and her husband Tim put together their weekly movie line-up, it's like a mix tape from a good friend - the one who dabbles in a little of everything.

Paula says it's important all voices are seen and heard, which is why the line-up goes beyond eclectic and ventures into inclusive. "Part of our mission is to present quality films outside of mainstream Hollywood," she explains. "Films that are by or about minorities, women and the LGBTQ community."

Even so-called "bad" movies get a fair shake at Cinema Detroit. Tim calls those so-bad-they're-good picks "future cult classics."

Paula says she watches every film. "I only program things that I love or that I think some of our audience will love," she says. "Our programing is eclectic because our taste is eclectic. We love everything: silent films, pre-Code classics (films released before the Motion Picture Production Code censorship guidelines were introduced in the early '30s), action/adventure, film noir, foreign, drama, comedy, documentaries..."

Paula loves films from every era, but fully embraces modern technology when it comes to spreading that love around. She writes a popular movie blog, Paula's Cinema Club, and runs a highly engaging Turner Classic Movies live tweet (#TCM_Party).

Cinema Detroit: Gay from the start

"We made gay-friendly titles part of our mix from the beginning," Paula says. "No one's ever complained to us. I think if people are uncomfortable, they just don't come back, because it's pretty obvious we're going to keep doing what we're doing."

One gay-focused feature, "Southern Baptist Sissies," was showcased this past spring. The GLAAD Award-winning film based on a stage play by Del Shores explores the dichotomy between growing up gay while growing up Southern Baptist. Cinema Detroit ran a two-for-one special on closing night in celebration of a positive court ruling that recognized Michigan same-sex marriage ceremonies that were conducted before the current stay was enforced.

More recently, Cinema Detroit partnered with the LGBT Older Adults Coalition of the Michigan ACLU to conduct a Q&A with director PJ Raval after a showing of his documentary "Before You Know It," which is focused on the active lives of several gay seniors. This fast-growing segment of America now includes over 2.4 million homosexuals over the age of 55.

Cinema Detroit is Detroit

Few movie-going experiences in Southeast Michigan feature such a devotion to keeping it local. Not only is Cinema Detroit the only truly independent theater in the metro Detroit area, Paula says it's the only one she's heard of in the nation that was converted from a former school. The theater serves locally-produced Faygo and Detroit Popcorn Company popcorn. Even the popcorn bags represent Detroit - they are sourced from a local provider, Green Safe Products.

Cinema Detroit is togetherness

Paula and Tim met when they worked together at their college paper. Tim was the entertainment editor and Paula reviewed movies. They've been watching them together ever since. Paula estimates the pair has watched thousands of films together, in many varied settings, an experience that has helped shape their vision for Cinema Detroit.

"Owning a movie theater has been my dream since I was a teenager," Paula says. "I've loved movies since I was very young and so has Tim."

Paula put that dream on the backburner until 2012, when she stumbled upon the Cable Car Cinema in Providence, R.I. This converted cable car garage is now a thriving indie movie theater. "This got me thinking about all the available industrial spaces in Detroit," Paula says. "We figured there had to be some space we could convert into a cinema."

At first, the pair tested the market, embarking on a pop-up film series in the West Village at Christmastime in 2012. They started to gather a following, but soon grew tired of lugging around all the heavy equipment involved with the screenings. Paula doesn't call it fate, but through a series of well-placed coincidences, the husband-wife team wound up leasing their current space from the same landlord they were renting housing from. He had recently ended his own movie theater endeavor.

These days, Paula and Tim handle every aspect of Cinema Detroit as a team. Paula is the CEO; Tim is the director of operations. Paula is the programmer, booker and projectionist, and she even makes her own deals with studios and distributors. Tim handles the front of the house: accounts receivable and payable, inventory and concessions.

When you visit the theater, Tim will sell you a ticket to a movie Paula will project, a movie Paula loves or Tim loves to loathe, or maybe a little of both. Either way, enjoy it the Cinema Detroit way, with a friend and a Faygo.

Coming Soon To Cinema Detroit

Be sure to check out the Cinema Detroit website for show times and additions to the always eclectic mix. In th meantime, here's what you can expect:

Sept. 5

Don't miss the theater's special showing of John Waters' "Polyester," complete with Odorama cards. These interactive cards are exactly like the ones circulated when the 1981 cult classic was originally shown. Audiences are encouraged to scratch the card when the corresponding number flashes onscreen. Find out why Francine (played by iconic drag queen Divine) wanted so badly to leave it all behind and take off with Todd Tomorrow in his white Corvette.

Later this fall, watch for "Eternity: The Movie," set to open in November. Cited as "the bro-mantic comedy of the year," Paula says this film is "a loving homage to the '80s, in particular its music and the sexual-gender ambiguity of many '80s pop stars." The film focuses on the rise of a Wham!-esque duo, Eternity. The New Wave soundtrack will appeal to any child or wannabe child of the '80s and anyone who has ever fallen in pseudo love with George Michael and/or Andrew Ridgeley.

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