by Michelle DeShon
A sign glowing with bright white lights on North High Street is all that suggests The Nightlight Cinema’s originality and artistry from outside. Inside Akron’s only arthouse cinema, however, guests are greeted by a space designed for visitors to engage in post-film discussions.
The concession stand (which doubles as a bar) features local brews and custom cocktails that are in theme with the movie that is currently showing. The cinema’s only auditorium boasts a couple of plush loveseats – the perfect spot for patrons on a date night. Kurtiss Hare, executive director of Nightlight Cinema, hopes to bring film culture to Akron where this kind of cinema experience has not existed before.
Earlier this year, Hare and his crew at the Nightlight Cinema made multiple submissions to the Knight Arts Challenge, two of which – Nightlight Production and Nightlight Explorers – were selected as finalists. The Knight Foundation provided one $20,000 grant for both finalists.
Hare hopes to bring in new equipment to provide a more interactive cinema experience for his audience with plans to host Skype-based Q&A sessions with directors, actors and other talents, directly connecting the audience with filmmakers in ways that don’t require the talent to travel to Akron. He also wants to incorporate a “confessional booth” that guests can go into and privately share their thoughts on the film, similar to what is used on reality television shows.
“With Nightlight Productions,” says Hare, “we’re much more focused on building that grassroots discussion that happens around the film … We think those are the two critical pieces to building film culture – the film itself and then the discussion.”
The second finalist, Nightlight Explorers, which begins this month, will bring Akron high school students to a special screening of a film. After the screening, each student will create an “artifact” that represents what they took from the film. This artifact can be a video, a poem or even a discussion that they hold at their high schools with their peers. Hare said he has already met his match for Nightlight Explorers with the cinema’s ticketing sales.
“I don’t think that a person who’s interested in film and cinema culture should have to go move to a big city in order to experience the life-changing things that it actually holds,” Hare says. He lived in San Francisco and experienced the film culture there, which “lit a passion” in him, and he hopes to bring some of that film culture to Akron.
Hare advises future grant winners to be ambitious. “Knight is basically demonstrating that they value the role of arts and culture in our community, and now it’s up to us to deliver on that.”
Nightlight Cinema is located at 30 N. High Street in downtown Akron. Admission is $9.00 for adults, $8.00 for senior citizens (65 and over) and children (12 and under), and $7.00 for members.
While joining The Devil Strip team for the summer, Michelle DeShon has realized that Akron has an abundance of genuine and passionate people. Keep being awesome Akron, I love you.