Charlotte Film Society launches another fundraiser as art house sets November opening

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The latest campaign to help run Charlotte’s only art house movie theater, opening this fall, is asking donors to “Take a Seat.”

The Charlotte Film Society plans to open its three-screen cinema, called Independent Picture House, in late November around Thanksgiving Day, the nonprofit’s board president, Brad Ritter, said Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the film society launched its latest fundraising campaign, called “Take a Seat,” to help cover the cost and installation of the 199 rocker-style seats in the two auditoriums and recliners for the smaller theater. A $350 contribution pays for a seat and installation, and donors will get their name on the screen and be able to reserve seating for any film, according to the film society.

The Charlotte Film Society has been fundraising for over a year to open its own art house theater in NoDa after the closing of the Regal Manor Twin, which housed the group’s showing of independent films.

The goal is to raise $1 million to cover capital and operational costs, Ritter said. As of Tuesday, the group was nearly halfway to its goal, having raised about $450,000, he said.

The group originally planned to use seats saved from the Manor, but has since decided to add new reclining seats and new curtains, as well as risers for better lines of sight.

“We wanted to make a really strong first impression when people come to the cinema,” Ritter said.

Timeline to the new independent theater

Last year, Charlotte lost its last art house when the Knoxville-based Regal movie theater chain said it would not reopen the Manor Twin in Myers Park. The theater was closed at the time during the coronavirus pandemic.

Charlotte once had 13 screens dedicated to art films. In February 2020, Ballantyne Village closed. Park Terrace, also known for showing independent and foreign films, closed four years ago. Both were owned by Regal.

In July 2020, the Charlotte Film Society signed a lease to renovate nearly 5,500 square feet of a 32,000-square-foot industrial building at 4237 Raleigh St. in NoDa.

The group began fundraising through a Go Fund Me drive with a goal to raise $150,000 for projection equipment, including speakers and computer servers. As of Tuesday, nearly $128,000 had been raised. When that campaign closes Thursday, donations can be made on the Charlotte Film Society website, Ritter said.

The society launched other campaigns, including selling T-shirts and the Executive Producer’s Guild, with donation levels starting at $5,000. Contributors get free movies for life at the art house, Ritter said.

The film society recently doubled its goal of $500,000 to cover renovations and more than a year’s worth of rent and operating costs because the movie industry isn’t bouncing back fast from the COVID-19 pandemic, Ritter said. Movie theaters were able to reopen with restrictions last October after having been closed for more than six months.

The group has funding to cover build-out costs, projectors, sound, seating and curtains, “but we need to cover operations if things are slow,” Ritter said.

More about Charlotte Film Society

The new cinema house will show independent, classic and foreign films. Formed in 1982, the film society rented Charlotte-area theaters to hold events such as its annual film festival.

The film society had hoped to open in time for its annual Charlotte Film Festival. The festival, usually held at the end of September, will be held Oct. 13-17 and show more than 100 films, according to the group’s Facebook page. The program is still in the works, Ritter said.

But like the festival, the Independent Picture House will show non-mainstream films and traditional art house titles like “Parasites” and “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” as well as films like “Titane” and “The French Dispatch,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and will open in theaters next month.

“We will be open like a traditional movie theater every day,” Ritter said. Admission and membership prices have not yet been released.

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