Monday, March 10, 2008

Chat with 'Movies on a Big Screen'

For those who do not know, Movies on a Big Screen (MOBS) is a local group that hosts independent film screenings and documentaries in Sacramento.

They have recently started up again in an old building in West Sacramento after having to leave their location in Midtown in the old Fool's Foundation site.

Films in the past that have peeked my personal interest included 'Chain' and 'Radiant City' which looked at topics related to this blog.

Future screenings include:
03/14/2008 - Abel Raises Cain
03/20/2008 - Zeitgeist: The Movie
03/21/2008 - American Carny: True Tales from the Circus Sideshow
03/28/2008 - Six String Samurai

Without the work of MOBS, there is a good chance these films would not be shown in Sacramento, even at The Crest or Tower. I encourage everyone to take a look at their website and find a film that has an interest to you, or just pop in one evening and seeing a different type of film.

I had a chance recently to ask a few questions to "Movies on a Big Screen" owners Robert and DeeAnn about how the they got started, where they are going, and the bumps in the road along the way.

"Movies on a Big Screen"
600 4th St - West Sacramento
(916) 484-0747


Respondent: Robert McKeown, Movies on a Big Screen

How did "Movies on a Big Screen" get started?

It really got started because my wife, and co-founder of MOBS, DeeAnn and I would talk about a lot of independent films and documentaries passing by Sacramento. We also wanted to attempt to bring more general, truly independent films to the attention of people. There were a few reasons for this, and not just from getting tired of people complaining about what they see at the megaplex, then returning the next weekend to see the same type of movie that they'll then complain about. We wanted people to see the variety that exists, both currently and in the past, within the world of independent film, so they might consider them more when looking at what they will buy when purchasing DVDs.

We also think that it is extremely healthy for a city to have this type of entertainment available. Keep in mind, we don't tend to show deep, artsy films (at least all that often). In one way or another, anything we show should make you think to a certain extent, but we try to feature titles that are for the most part, accessible for anyone - and frankly, some are, indeed, fairly escapist in nature.

We also always had the idea of trying to work with local groups, particularly with issue-based documentaries, and bring representatives out to speak from those groups when appropriate in order to involve the community at a different and deeper level. It was never the intention to do this (ie, speakers) on a weekly, or even monthly, basis, but where it fit to do so, then we really wanted to. We also try to work with schools, again, where appropriate and as time allows.

Anyway, so we talked to a few places about partnering up with them, but for one reason or another, they didn't pan out. We sort of were looking for a place for a number of months in 2006, but honestly, it was a pretty half-assed "search," as we had other things going on as well. I ultimately got in contact with Liz who ran Fools Foundation, as many people we knew also knew her, and after just a couple of discussions, it quickly became very clear that we shared very similar intents in this project. So Movies on a Big Screen began in conjunction with Fools Foundation in Sept 2006. Of course, after just shy of a year, Fools Foundation was shut down by the city.

- What is your main goal with this venture (other than to make a living)?

Making a living off of it would be great!! But I don't think that's to be, at least anytime soon. Really, our main goal is to keep showing the movies we show and keep trying to get as many people as we possibly can to go and experience what we screen in a communal setting. And to also provide some exposure to the films which we show.

- So why did you get shut down in the old Fool's Foundation location?

Hmm - well, we weren't the proprietors of Fools, so I don't feel particularly comfortable with expanding on why Fools was shut down by the city in too much detail, but it had nothing to do with safety of the place or anything like that. It had to do with bureaucracy in action more than anything.

- How is the new space in West Sacramento treating you?

It treats us OK! We actually love the neighborhood (and it's nothing like it used to be) as well as the neighbors there, most of whom we've met and talked with. The building itself is very old, and has its problems, but we try to ensure that it is kept clean and problem-free for folks coming to movies or the occasional other event that might happen there. It's truly a great space.

- Any plans on making back into the Grid? Have you been able to talk to any developers, building owners or the city about a much-needed small multi-purpose venue for smaller theater and art orgs?

Um - no comment? OK - here's a lengthy comment:

We would definitely have interest in showing movies back on "the Grid." We have spoken with all you mentioned, with a focus on those who publicly make statements about supporting the arts and a vibrant city. We are currently located at 600 4th St, West Sacramento.

Back to "the Grid" - plans? As I said, we'd definitely be interested in this - the problem that exists is somewhat referenced in your follow-up question, and particularly in the case of trying to do movies. Natural lighting is our enemy, and this can be problematic with a number of places that prefer natural lighting on a regular basis. That being said, we'd definitely have interest in returning there, although a fair amount of our audience did come from "off the grid" when we were at Fools Foundation.

In regards to your second question regarding the multi-purpose space - you've hit on something vitally important here, in my opinion. I firmly believe and agree with you that this is much-needed.

Have we spoken with anyone? Yes. I need to couch my words a bit here, but we've been left with a bit of an opinion that there is a whole helluva lot of talk from many sectors you're referring to within Sacramento regarding a strong desire to support the arts in all forms, but when it really comes down to it, at least some of those who have the ability to do so in a substantive way from the perspective of resources, won't act beyond the talk - except for maybe a certain few, select and prominent instances and support of places of the same stature. In my opinion, this ultimately does little for Sacramento, and certainly does little for the entities that need it most.

I do need to clarify one thing here. Of all of the folks who we talked to during our downtime following the Fools closure, who quietly stepped up to actually help in the end? LJ Urban. They knew the situation we were in (no venue) and actually delivered simply because they did not want to see Movies on a Big Screen gone from Sacramento.

Why was that? Because they truly felt it was important for the city. Did they even ask for any kind of recognition for the aid and contribution? No. We took it upon ourselves to make sure folks knew they came to our assistance. We personally think others in this town really could learn an awful lot from them - you can't just talk about support; you have to deliver it.

I really could go on - but will restrain myself.

- Where do you see this in 5 years? Any 5-year plan for the business?

Five years? Heh. Yeah, we might be able to get to some kind of planning along those lines with a stable venue. We would like to still be showing movies 5 years from now, though. And hopefully having people come out to them.

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