The Independent Picture House’s executive director, Brad Ritter, and creative director, Jay Morong, were guests recently on The Movie Pope podcast to talk about the origins of IPH, how they pick films and what ‘arthouse cinema’ really means. Below are the podcast link and an excerpt edited for length and clarity.
INTERVIEWER: How do you go about curating these movies? How do you choose which films are going to show at the theater?
BRAD RITTER: That’s what we were doing [at the Toronto International Film Festival] last week. I saw 39 films. I think Jay saw 38 or 39 films. We saw probably four or five of the same films. He’s got different tastes, I have different tastes, and we make a list. Some of them we know are going to open in October; some are going to open over Thanksgiving. But we have this list now, especially the ones that we enjoyed and want to bring because we’re passionate about them. We’ll continue to monitor to them. A lot of the films don’t have distribution yet, so we’re seeing world premieres of films that might not get released until next summer, next fall even, so that’s part of the process.
JAY MORONG: It’s a fine line. You’ve got to keep the doors open and keep the lights on, and you’ve got to pay the rent, so you need to think, what are people wanting to see? When you talk to your audience or your membership, you get a sense of what they [want], and now we’ve been open over a year, so we have a pretty good sense of what people like and what they seem to be into. But there’s also that element of, like what Brad is talking about, you have to have as a programmer or a programming team people who say, ‘Well, what about this? Because I think it’s really good.’
Not me specifically, whoever that person is. We’re doing a series connected to the Anime Expo, so we’re showing a bunch of anime films over the next few months. We started in September and will go through to February. It’s classic repertory anime, and that’s a huge blind spot in my repertoire of what I like. I’ve just never really been into anime. But we had one of our our staff members, Ali Harris, who said there’s a community of people in this city who want to see both new and classic anime. So there’s advocacy from someone, then you turn around and you work with that person and go, OK, let’s see. We have space in the calendar. Let’s see if we can actually build this audience. We did very well with the first film we had last week, so that was one of those things where I think it is just a gut feeling.
Like Brad said, we see a lot of stuff at festivals, and if we can bring it in, maybe we have the ability to market it and get some of our people to come see it, and maybe that over time helps build an audience for cinema that’s not in the mainstream. There is a core value that I believe we have in the Independent Picture House: We want to introduce people to new types of cinema.