Nightlight executive director Jenn Kidd, courtesy of The Nightlight

The Nightlight debuts a new leader and some big changes

INDIE THEATRE’S UPGRADES INCLUDE ‘ROB LUCAS LOBBY’ HONORING LATE CO-FOUNDER

story by Derek Kreider

Downtown Akron’s art house theatre has a new champion. Shuttered by the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020, The Nightlight Cinema reopens June 11, 2021 with a new executive director leading the way. 

Jenn Kidd, who has been a long-time advocate for the Historic Arts District, was announced ahead of the reopening as The Nightlight’s new leader, which she describes as her dream job. 

“To me, it’s the gem of downtown,” Kidd says, adding that working there “checks off all the boxes of things I love to do.”

Previously, Kidd worked for three years as the general manager of Musica, overseeing the day-to-day operation of the venue and putting marketing strategies into action, as well as working as creative director of the Historic Arts District.  

A self-described “cultural logistics coordinator,” and lifelong film buff, Kidd looks forward to sharing the magic of movies with Akron. 

“I am an artist, and I love connecting people with art,” she says. “I enjoy the challenge of introducing people to something they may not be familiar with.”

Matthew Wachter, a trustee of the non-profit cinema who served as its interim executive director, expressed his confidence in a press release, saying, “The Nightlight is in great hands moving towards a bright future.”

The Nightlight Cinema in downtown Akron

When fans return, they’ll also find some significant changes, beginning as they enter through the Rob Lucas Lobby, named for The Nightlight co-founder and founder of the Akron Independent Film Festival. Those renovations were funded by donations from Lucas’ family after he passed last July at the age of 41, following a seven-year battle with cancer.

The theatre has been upgraded with an HVAC and UV-C air filtration system designed to reduce airborne contaminants, as well as plexiglass shielding around the box office, hand sanitizing stations and “markers for socially distant check-in and seating,” according to the Nightlight’s website. 

And not a moment too soon for Kidd.

“During COVID, when I was sitting at home last year at this time being sad, I was like, ‘Gosh, I wish I could go to The Nightlight and see a movie’,” she says.

The Nightlight, which opened in 2014 with grants from the Knight Foundation and the GAR Foundation, will be showing two movies to kick off their 2021 season.

The first, “The Story of a Three Day Pass,” is Melvin Van Peebles’s debut film about a Black soldier named Turner stationed in France who receives a three-day leave to Paris and gets romantically involved with a white French national.

The second, “The Perfect Candidate,” tells the story about a young woman doctor, Maryam, in Saudi Arabia, and her campaign as candidate for municipal council.

A good film might be what Akronites need as we emerge from our pandemic-induced hibernation, and The Nightlight’s welcoming, air-conditioned arms beckon. 

“There’s something very comforting,” Kidd says, “about sitting in the cinema just with you, your thoughts and the film.”

The Nightlight will operate at half-capacity for its reopening weekend, but tickets can be purchased in advance online. For details, visit nightlightcinema.com. 


//Derek Kreider is a general assignment reporter and distribution manager for The Devil Strip.


//Disclosure: Jenn Kidd’s photography appeared on the April 2021 issue of The Devil Strip, but that played no part in our editorial decision regarding this article, neither was she consulted or allowed to preview the story ahead of publication. — Chris Horne, publisher