Membership drive aims to maintain Images as bastion of indie film

In January Images Cinema, the one-hundred-year-old movie house located on Spring Street, kicked off its first membership drive. The campaign will continue until the end of February.

The theater’s goal is to raise $60,000 by April 1 so that the theater will have adequate funds to sponsor another year of predominantly independent film. With such a small community of moviegoers, ticket prices alone cannot meet operating costs. In order to meet these costs, the non-profit theater depends on the contributions of corporate sponsors, volunteers and members.

Memberships cost from $35 for a student membership and $50 for a non-student individual membership to $1000 for a producer membership. Depending on one’s level of membership, one receives benefits that include ticket discounts, calendar mailings, invitations to lectures and events held at the theater and T-shirts. With a student membership, admission costs $4.50, a $1.50 discount off the regular student ticket price. All donations and membership dues are tax-deductible.

“There aren’t enough people to come to the movies. . . .We’re trying to save [Images] from impeding doom,” said Angela Cardinali managing director.

The landmark theater has been on the verge of closing twice in the past ten years. In 1989, actor Christopher Reeve visited Williamstown to lead a fundraiser that saved the struggling cinema. The names on the back of many seats in the theater, which sold for $1,000 each, are a result of that fundraiser.

In April 1998 a steering committee took control of the theater. The committee raised $82,000 and hired two part time managers, Cardinali and Alexandra Kalmanofsky, to run the business.

After four months, the new managing team realized that ticket sales would not raise enough money to sustain the theater. In order to save Images, Cardinali and Kalmanofsky initiated a membership campaign, searched for sponsors, reluctantly raised ticket prices and showed more mainstream films.

“We’re trying to bring in more mainstream things,” said Cardinali. Recently, the theater has sponsored events including the Adam Sandler Film Festival and has shown films such as Blade.

This is not to say that Images is turning into a theater that shows multi-million-dollar Hollywood marketing miracles. Instead, it is attempting to meet the needs of the surrounding community while trying to raise much needed revenue.

Commentator Seth Rogovoy of The Berkshire Eagle likened Images to “a permanent film festival.” The quality of films shown on its screens is consistently strong. Many films shown at Images can be found among the top ten lists of numerous film critics.

“We want to show a film with a quality element to it. We’re pretty selective about what we show here,” said Cardinali.

“I think Images does a great job in picking movies. Generally, even if I haven’t heard of the movie they are showing before, I enjoy it,” said Austin Duncan ’02.

“If you’re looking to see good film, this is where to see it. . .We consider what we show here to be more on the art side of film,” said Cardinali. And like most museums and cultural institutions, Images Cinema has the effect of educating the public and raising consciousness through the medium of powerful film.

In addition to these efforts to sustain Images, there are other plans in the works.

Cardinali and Kalmanofsky have been playing with the idea of expanding the space of the theater to give it street-side presence and a real lobby, which would double as a late night coffee bar. With the Mountain Goat moving out of its store space, this is a physically possible endeavor, but one that needs money to it to become a reality.

Another optimistic plan is to take out the first few rows of seats out of the theater and replace them with couches that would be used for viewings, after-movie discussions and other meetings.

“Images is more than just a movie theater, it is a community space. . . .If you’re a regular, we’ll know your name,” said Cardinali.

Those without the funds to acquire membership can still help Images by volunteering. There are many opportunities in the areas of fundraising, event planning, and administration. There are jobs involving low and high levels of commitment.

Successful recent movie showings have included Darren Aronofsky’s Pi, Neil LaBute’s Your Friends and Neighbors, Adrian Lyne’s Lolita and Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful. Life is Beautiful was Images’s highest grossing film at about $2,000.

Currently playing is Hilary and Jackie, a story portraying the lives of Hilary and Jackie du Pre, their musical talents and the loves they carried.

It is “not a conventional love story, but one that feels true because it is told from the heart and doesn’t spare the audience the pain that often accompanies love,” film critic James Kendrick said in Film Reviews.

For more information about membership, volunteer opportunities, or show times, visit http://www.imagescinema.org or call 413-458-5612.

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