Destination Film: Cinema Detroit

Next up for movie destinations: Cinema Detroit.

The city of Detroit, Michigan's film culture scene, while growing and eclectic, is largely dominated by multiplex theater chains such as the Emagine Theaters, the AMC Theaters and last but not least, the MJR Theaters.  While we have the Main Art Theater, the Maple Theater, the Redford Theater and the Historic Howell Theater, the options for seeing independent art house releases that come in and out of Michigan under the radar is becoming increasingly few and far between.  Enter what is now known as Cinema Detroit, one of the few first run fully independent movie theaters in the state of Michigan which offers both mainstream releases, locally made Michigan based films and genuinely hard to find clandestine releases you won't find anywhere else without going out of state.  

Established and owned by husband and wife theater managers Paula and Tim Guthat, the mom and pop Cinema Detroit venue has had a long and checkered journey towards it's new locale and moniker.  Previously housed in the former Burton Elementary school on Cass Avenue, which was the former home of the now defunct Burton Theater and Cass City Cinema, Cinema Detroit has since relocated to 4126 Third Street in a new building within walking distance of the Motor City Brewing Works and the Traffic Jam restaurant.  Housing two fully furnished theater screens with DCP projectors installed, the auditoriums have inarguably the most homemade feel I've ever experienced in a movie house with brick and mortar walls and combined theater and desk chair seating.  The smaller auditorium even contains small couches interspersed with the desk seats.  Inside the lobby is a cozy lounge area adorned with movie posters, red painted walls and couches for group gatherings and patrons wishing to discuss the unique films you won't find anywhere else.  

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One of two theaters operating seven days a week in the Metro Detroit area, the other being the Bel Air 10, Cinema Detroit has allowed for truly one of a kind underground releases to get a proper theatrical presentation where other theaters would either pass on booking or not have the room to include them.  For instance, Ryan Gosling's Detroit based directorial debut Lost River was either only available in Kalamzoo's Alamo Drafthouse or on-demand, making the opportunity to see it as intended in a theater setting almost impossible.  That is, until the Cinema Detroit was able to book it and I managed to see it in all of it's colorfully depressing glory.  The latest unique offering by the Cinema Detroit involves a team effort with Peace Meal Kitchen for an Iranian food and tea cuisine in conjunction with the forthcoming Iranian soccer film, Offside.  Unlike multiplexes where you'll find teenage kids at the ticket booth and concession stands, everything from the projectors to online marketing, film programming and managing the concessions is handled by the Guthats who are graciously there to help and serve your every need.  It is also refreshing to be able to talk film on a cineaste's level with the owners who are fully dedicated to giving Detroit an independent cinema scene it needs and so deserves.  Not since the heydays of Thomas Video have I had this much fun talking movies with the people who run the business.

Though for some it might be a bit of a hike to see some of the genuinely original offerings, some of which I wouldn't have had the opportunity to see were it not for Cinema Detroit, the experience of a 100% independently financed, erected and run movie theater is a one of a kind entertainment you simply won't get anywhere else.  Cinema Detroit also accepts crowdfunding with Equally exciting is the film culture itself with patrons who are equally devoted cinephiles wanting to see something a little bit more out of left field.  

Having attended the theater numerous times myself before and after they moved into their new locale, I can say without hesitation this is a theater other people must go out of their way and see for themselves.  Some may say they have their work ahead of them but as the film scene in Detroit continues to expand, so too does the need for an original movie theater not ran by corporate chains which only service the mainstream demographic.  Having recently seen and reviewed The Dying of the Light which I wouldn't have heard of were it not for them, I can't wait to go back and introduce more people to this bona fide homegrown movie theater overseen by people who truly love and care about film and those who come to see them.

- Andrew Kotwicki