5th Avenue cinema reopens to students
5th Avenue Cinema reopens its doors to students after an 18-month hiatus. While their reopening signals a return to campus-wide normalcy for Portland state students, the cinema is preparing to deal with the complications and concerns of a continuing pandemic.
“We have been very careful with the growing concerns, especially since we are not only a public theater, but also a theater that serves concessions and drinks,” said Owen Peterson, 5th Avenue cinema coordinator. . “In order to keep the experience as safe as possible for us and our customers, we ask people to show proof of vaccination upon arrival, wear masks anywhere and anytime, they don’t eat or drink , and also operate at [three-fourths] capacity (75 people per session instead of 100) to ensure distance between all clients.
When 5th Avenue reopened in 1989 after being bought out by the State of Portland, the PSU Film Committee was formed to take over the theater. Since then, the cinema – which is the state’s only student-run theater – has operated on a non-profit basis, with all screenings free for PSU students, faculty, staff and alumni, and tickets. for other members of the public costing only $ 4 or $ 5. The cinema will remain free for students following its recent reopening. Because PSU currently enforces vaccinations for students who wish to be on campus, the theater accepts valid student cards as proof of vaccination.
The cinema facility, which is located at SW 5th and Hall on campus, is also used for other campus events. Conferences are held frequently inside the cinema’s two screening rooms, which will also resume this quarter; and, during the pandemic, the cinema housed the PSU Food Pantry, which has now moved to its former location in the basement of the Smith Memorial Student Union.
“As for the services that will occupy space in the future outside our own, we will mainly work on the deployment of our [screening] rental services again in the winter, since the pandemic does not worsen, ”Peterson said. “We hope to work on more collaborations with PSU organizations and clubs to facilitate guest speakers, film-related discussions and potentially a film festival.”
Even during the cinema’s one-and-a-half-year shutdown, his team of five students kept busy continuing to organize a selection of 10 weeks of films available on streaming platforms for each term and hosting a discussion podcast for each film as a stand. for in-person screenings.
“[The podcast] was a great way to connect the staff on a personal level as we were basically just sharing our opinions on the movies we are showing and making fun of each other for 45 minutes to an hour, ”said Peterson. “Unfortunately, it’s taking too long for our in-person workflow, so we’re moving to a new, shorter form of content for fall that’s more visual than audible.”
One of the most notable and notable aspects of 5th Avenue is its support for 35mm projections, a rare find in the digital cinema age. With theaters like the Academy Theater and the historic Hollywood Theater, the 5th Avenue Cinema is one of the few theaters in the state to show 35mm and sometimes 16mm films. The 35mm screenings made up the bulk of 5th Avenue’s pre-COVID-19 screenings, with 2019 alone hosting celluloid screenings of classics like Harakiri, Eraserhead, Woman in the Dunes and Y Tu Mamá También. In striking comparison, this fall’s schedule contains just three 35mm screenings, although the reasoning behind that decision was heavily influenced by the pandemic.
“[The pandemic] has certainly influenced which films and formats distributors are willing to lend at the moment, ”said Genevieve Hunsaker, one of the cinema’s two projectionists. “While we would like all of our screenings to be on 35mm film, distributors are rightly cautious about sending in film reels, so we’ve had to make some adjustments and add more digital programming for now. “
In addition, the two cinema projectionists who were on 5th Avenue before the pandemic have since left, and the closure of the theater has made it difficult to train new projectionists in their profession.
“We were fortunate to be able to train during the pandemic,” Hunsaker said. “Although it wasn’t very consistent until we got ready for our first screening, we were fortunate enough to still get into the screening booth and gain hands-on experience with the projectors. Early in my training we tried to do this virtually, but we quickly discovered that it wasn’t as beneficial as being in person and being able to see what’s going on in the spotlight up close.
“Coming out of total lockdown has certainly been an odd transition for everyone on Fifth Avenue,” said Cadie Godula, the cinema’s other projectionist. “For me, I’ve never officially met anyone from the old staff, so I feel like we’re really starting from scratch on how to run the theater at the moment. Regarding learning to screen films, Geneviève and I were able to train with Joel Miller [of Northwest Projection and Sound] who is super proficient in showing movies and [Digital Cinema Package], so I feel more and more confident in the stand.
Because physical film has to be handled more often and by more people than digital formats, many film libraries and productions have placed less emphasis on screening and filming in the midst of the pandemic due to safety concerns. (for example, The walking dead switched from 16mm film to digital footage for their penultimate season).
“The main [challenge] is the difficulty we have had in renting the films we want to show because of the damaged relationships with the major distributors from whom we rent a lot of our films, ”said Peterson.
“We probably had to change our schedule more than 10 times from our original draft because we can’t get the media we want or the prints are missing / unavailable from only distributors in the US. “
Despite the difficulties in renting films from distributors, the fall programming on 5th Avenue remains just as impressive as that of previous years. Although two special screenings of Bad girls on 35mm were screened on Friday, September 24 to celebrate the reopening of the cinema, the fall program will officially begin on October 1, with a film screened each week at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays respectively, and 3 p.m. on Sundays. This quarter’s inaugural film is Mala Noche, the Portland directorial debut of acclaimed Portland director Gus Van Sant (My own private Idaho) and a flagship film of independent LGBTQ + cinema.
5th Avenue is also renowned for the extreme diversity of the films they have screened, both in origin, subject and genre. The inclusion of films like Animal house, Miranda July Me and you and everyone we know and dusk in this quarter’s selection, the last two even being part of the rare 35mm projections of this quarter.
“I remember so vividly my growing experience throughout the whole moment of Twilight and the hatred it all sparked,” said Andi Johnson, publicity coordinator, who programmed the film. “The idea of revisiting the film on the big screen is so exciting to me. We are planning to have a fun little “weekend outfit” competition.
“I’m really excited for one of my choices, You and me and everyone we know since we were able to obtain it in 35 mm! said Godula. “This is one of my favorite films and I am delighted to show it on film and in front of an audience. Projecting a reel of film has an almost alchemical quality from the position of a projectionist as you watch the reel enter this great machine as still images and see it come out as a reproduction of movement. It’s just a very magical skill to learn.
Alongside these aforementioned cult classics, the program includes international rarities such as the provocative erotic film by French musician Serge Gainsbourg. I Love You Me No More and the gripping drama on Franco-Mauritanian immigration of Med Hondo Sun O. The psychosexual film winner of the Grand Prix by Michel Haneke The piano teacher and Satoshi Kon’s animated masterpiece Perfect blue Wrap up the last two weeks of October for the perfect Halloween showings.
“[Perfect Blue] was a movie that a few of our employees wanted to show because of how infrequently seeing it on the big screen, and it’s such a great fall movie, ”said Peterson. “If there is a film screened this quarter, I think everyone should attend, it’s Perfect blue. “
To close the term, two films by esteemed titans of cinema: the color comedy by Yasujirō Ozu Hello on the digital and the dreamer of Andrei Tarkovsky Nostalgia about 35mm. The unique mix of these films alongside the others in this term’s schedule is perfectly demonstrative of what has always made 5th Avenue one of the best places PSU students go to throughout the year. Its reopening after such a long closure is not only a rejuvenation for old and new visitors to the theater, but also an indication of the gradual return to normality for students after six terms of completely distance learning.
“I think the best thing about reopening is the overall experience we provide,” said Peterson. “I personally know that I can’t sit and watch a movie at home anymore. My attention span is destroyed. The in-person cinema experience is one that I find so immersive and irreplaceable in my own life, and I’m sure tons of students feel the exact same way. I’m glad we can offer this experience to students at no cost, because going to the movies is truly one of the best escapes from classroom work and the pressures of normal life.
“[The cinema] is the best escape and right now a lot of us need some space to decompress from the real world, ”said Nayeli Naranjo-Robles, Events Coordinator.