But these days any East Cobb soccer mom can catch a different indie or foreign flick every night of the week -- with several options to choose from, no less. Sure, it's better than the opposite problem, having the smaller, artsy films skip Atlanta altogether. But where's the devotion, or the exclusivity?
This year Atlanta woke up to movies outside the Hollywood system, films that don't trade pyrotechnics for plot or don't star former "American Idol" personalities. The indie scene in general has exploded in recent years, but 2003 gave Atlantans dozens more options for non-mainstream movie outings.
The most obvious reason is the arrival of two new theaters. In the spring, Madstone Theaters worked some powerful magic on the former General Cinema theater at the Parkside Shopping Center in Sandy Springs and emerged with a sleek, upscale multiplex aimed at adults. It even serves beer and wine, God forbid. The theater doesn't just do art house -- it usually offers a couple of mainstream choices as well -- but Madstone Theatres Parkside quickly established itself as a place to find movies not showing anywhere else in the city. In addition to the plush renovations, the theater also recently invested big bucks in a new digital projector.
With autumn arrived the new Landmark Theaters Midtown Art Cinema, a boutique multiplex that arose from the ashes of the old Regal Midtown Promenade. The theater deals exclusively in non-mainstream fare, and saw unprecedented success this fall showing Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle, the kind of subversive cinema that might not have shown here before this watershed year. The theater also hosted Out on Film, the city's gay and lesbian film festival, in November, finally giving the 16-year-old event a stable home in an intown setting.
Further south, Cinefest, Georgia State University's student-run movie theater, reopened this year after a lengthy renovation. It still favors art-house content, but now includes a good deal of Hollywood product as well.
But the hardcore cineaste will attest that the most edgy film substance isn't always found in theaters. Local filmmakers have found a plethora of venues for screening their work. Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery on MLK Drive continues to host its popular film nights once a month, while IMAGE Film and Video Center found a successful formula with frequent screenings in unexpected venues, like its monthly Short Lived! event at Echo Lounge. PushPush Theater continues to bring filmmakers and theater folk together for its frequent Dailies project, which challenges artists to create works based on a single concept.
Collaboration also fuels the multimedia gurus behind WellFair, who have attracted a steady following to their free monthly events that combine locally produced films, visual arts and music at MJQ Concourse on Ponce. WellFair's success has prompted its organizers to set their sights on larger goals, like starting up a new locals-only film festival next year. And speaking of festivals, the upstart film festival Downstream made inroads this year when it relocated from Gainesville to Decatur, where it screened 140 local and international films.
A similar DIY spirit underscores the spate of film collectives that popped up this year, like Fake Wood Wallpaper, a quartet of freshly hatched film students. These typically seat-of-the-pants cliques of kindred artistic spirits represent video innovation on the most grassroots level -- an important substrata for the overall film scene.
Of course this apparent blossoming of all things film-related has its downside. It doesn't take a film snob to sniff out the recent rash of stinkers showing up on newly erected screens. Some films that might've once never opened in Atlanta now have the chance to screen here, which isn't always a blessing.
Still, the flourishing of local film can only be a benefit for the city's art scene in general. Exposure to more movies from outside the studio system might just serve as a catalyst to an already active subculture of artists, hometown types who don't see the need to move to L.A. or New York to become the next Neil Labute -- film snobs be damned.
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