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Local cinema collective brings audiences new theater experiences



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Patrons of a Cicada Cinema film event watch a film. Cicada Cinema is a pop-up cinema collective based in Bloomington. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

Founded by five self-described cinephiles, local pop-up cinema collective Cicada Cinema aims to offer viewers a new type of theater-going experience, according to Josh Brewer, one of the group's founders.

“We really strive for showing anything old, new, locally made – just anything that we feel is underrepresented in town,” Brewer said.

Cicada Cinema was first founded in 2016 when Nile Arena, Eric Ayotte, Charlie Jones, David Carter and Josh Brewer began tossing about the idea of creating some sort of local cinema group to fill a perceived niche.

“We all love the different places you can see movies in town — there’s the Ryder, the IU Cinema, the AMCs — but we felt there was a niche for something a little more creative or fun,” Brewer said. 

After months of planning and a couple of necessary equipment purchases, Cicada Cinema was up-and-running for its first ever screening on Halloween of 2016, a showing of the idiosyncratic stop-motion film “Torrey Pines” at the artistic venue the Void.

Cicada Cinema also strives to provide guests with a fun experience that extends beyond the quality of the film and into the atmosphere of the event, said Nile Arena, another of the organization's founders. 

“We try to make it clear that it is a show, and that it’s kind of a community event,” he said. “The reason we’re doing this is that movies are great, but they’re best when you’re seeing them with an audience, when you’re in a crowd.”

In selecting films, Brewer said that the organization’s five members, all of whom are volunteers, focus on showing films they feel are underrepresented. They also look for movies that fit clever and fun themes that excite the organization’s members.

“We let our own interests dictate the diversity of the screenings,” he said. 

The group also felt that Bloomington had a lack of designated art spaces, and Brewer said they initially wanted to contribute something to the community. 

Arena added that they’d been influenced by a theater in Franklin, Indiana, called the Historic Artcraft Theatre, and they wanted to try to bring something like it to Bloomington. 

“A couple of us drove up there, and that’s where we got our inspiration,” Arena said. “It’s amazing… it can’t not warm your heart.”

Initially, the group had a consistent space with a local venue called The Void. Brewer said that they always defined themselves as a pop-up because, much to the group’s collective dismay, The Void had been scheduled for demolition for a while. It was only a matter of time before they would be without a constant venue.

“There just seems to be a lack of affordable art spaces in Bloomington, and that was one,” Brewer said. “It was a real shame when that left.” 

After losing The Void as a constant space, Cicada Cinema’s organizers weren’t sure what the future would hold for their organization, said Brewer. Their main trouble was finding a new space, but they would need money for new equipment, as well.

Arena said that the organization found its salvation in the form of a Bloomington Urban Enterprise Association grant given to them by the City of Bloomington. The grant, he said, supplied them with enough money to keep Cicada Cinema alive for all of 2018. 

“We’re so thankful to the City of Bloomington for taking a risk on a kind of ragtag crew to let us keep showing movies,” Brewer said. 

With the money from the grant, Cicada Cinema plans to screen one film per month throughout the entirety of 2018, while partnering with different local venues, said Brewer.

“We wanted to just partner with a different local business, or art space, or gallery… just something downtown,” Brewer said. “We wanted to partner with someplace once a month, to bring people to different spaces in town.”

Cicada Cinema’s January event was a screening of Golden Globe nominee “The Florida Project.” For February, Brewer said that the group is planning some sort of dinner and a movie event.

Both Arena and Brewer separately said that they were immensely thankful for the continued support of the Bloomington community.

“We’re really thankful for people just checking us out and taking a risk,” Brewer said. “I encourage people to take a risk and check it out — it’ll be a fun time, it’ll be worth it.”

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