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CAM Parts Ways with Cincinnati World Cinema

By Steven Rosen · February 25th, 2009 · The Big Picture

Citing diminishing returns, the Cincinnati Art Museum has ended its relationship with Cincinnati World Cinema (CWC), a presenter of art films, classics, shorts collections and documentaries that had been using its auditorium since 2007.

That has left the future unclear for those who feel Cincinnati needs a non-commercial outlet for such specialized films that otherwise wouldn’t play here. CWC’s Executive Director Tim Swallow says he’s scouring the area for another site — preferably one equipped with a screen and 35-millimeter projector, like the museum’s Fath Auditorium. Meanwhile, the art museum says it plans to start up its own film programming, closely related to its collection and special exhibitions, in September.

The art museum also cited its need to maximize revenue sources in this tough economic climate. Its rental agreement with CWC had not netted it any money since September, museum spokeswoman Patricia Hynes said.

“If it’s a diminishing return, we have a fiduciary responsibility, given the economy, to do what we can to be strong and viable,” Hynes said.

The museum has taken several other recent budgetary measures, including layoffs and institution of a parking fee, in a time when earned and contributed income are down.

The museum’s arrangement with CWC, negotiated by a prior administration, gave the film group an option to use the 325-seat auditorium the second and fourth Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each month. CWC paid no set rental fee but rather a sliding scale of ticket revenue if 400 or more attended over a two-night screening.

CWC has hit that mark in the past but has failed to do so with its limited number of presentations — just four — during the final four months of 2008. Of those titles, only an October shorts festival came close; screenings of Full Battle Rattle, Contempt and In the Mood for Love fell well short. Because of that, the museum didn’t renew the agreement for 2009. The space is now available for rental or for institutional use.

Swallow points out that autumn was tough. He had to twice delay his shorts festival and cancel another planned screening, of Charlie Chaplin’s Monsieur Verdoux, because of windstorm damage and a water-main break at the museum. Further, he says, one of his films — Wong Kar Wai’s 2001 In the Mood for Love, which drew 154 people over two nights — was shown at the museum’s urging. Clips of the film already were being used in the China Design Now exhibit.

The museum seems to be after that kind of synergy in whatever film-exhibition program it devises and believes it can do better on its own.

“We want to do more to highlight film as an art form, but also to highlight our collection and tie film in with that in a more cohesive manner,” said Emily Holtrop, the museum’s curator for learning and interpretation. To that extent, she said, an in-house group has begun discussing film programming.

Meanwhile, at 7 p.m. Wednesday CWC hosts its final screening of That Old Black Magic, a DVD of excerpts from Canadian Broadcasting Company’s archives of 1950s-era appearances by African-American Jazz musicians and song stylists. It occurs at the Redmoor nightclub in Mount Lookout Square. Swallow hopes to also present the DVD-projected Oscar Shorts there at the end of March. But after that, he’s looking.

“We’re in our eighth year and not going away,” he says. “Our audience expects us to bring in things that are unique, and we trust them to come.”

CONTACT STEVEN ROSEN: srosen@citybeat.com



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