Cinema Center – A Unique Experience for Fort Wayne

Cinema Center is not your typical theater.

Instead of showing major studio releases, the non-profit organization focuses on giving Fort Wayne natives a unique experience.

They feature indie, experimental, foreign, and classic films, since it was founded in 1976.

Currently residing at 437 E. Berry St., moves are a part of its history.

“Going from space to space severely limited the types of films that could be shown,” Jonah Crismore says.

Jonah, the current executive director for Cinema Center, says it is always changing.

Cinema Center was formed after The Spectator Theater was shut down, and film enthusiasts wanted to see movies that were different from what were shown at regular theater chains according to its website.

Prior to finding a home in the Hall Community Arts Center in 1991, the Cinema Center debuted films at any location available.

It showed “The Big Sleep,” their first film, on Sept. 11, 1976, in the Fort Wayne Art School auditorium in West Central according to the website.

After their first event, they continued to show films in the Allen County Public Library, One Summit Square, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, and the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, according to the website.

Kathy Bock, currently an adviser to the Board of Directors, says she found the organization shortly after coming to Fort Wayne.

“I was very happy to have a place like Cinema Center to go to myself,” she says.

Kathy says she had her first Cinema Center experience around 1980 at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, but the quality was not ideal.

She says they sat on regular chairs right next to the projector, which was almost louder than the movie itself.

This did not stop her from going back to Cinema Center.

“That was before you could rent movies to see on your VHS or your Betamax player or whatever it was,” she says.

Similar to Kathy, Jonah first encountered Cinema Center when he was a teenager. Though he says the experience was different from what he was expecting, it still had an impact on him.

“This is truly where I learned to love film,” he says.

Because of the movies that they show, Cinema Center has been able to differentiate themselves from larger nearby theaters.

“Cinema Center is more about showcasing film as an art form,” Kathy says. “I think and if you come to movies there, you’ll definitely notice a difference in the kinds of films you see.”

Tammara Cornett, the director of office administration and bookkeeping at Cinema Center, says she appreciates the diverse collections of films they show, which is how her and her husband found out about the organization.

At its current location, Cinema Center houses only one screen, but has a number of other commodities.

They have upgraded to a digital projector in recent years, as well as adding brand new seats and Dolby sound, and also featuring a wine bar section for concessions, Kathy says.

Even though they are not a theater like Carmike or Regal, Jonah says they still feel the consequences of the industry.

He says that with fewer people going to see movies now, Cinema Center is looking for new ways to bring people to their location.

“We’re constantly having speakers come in to generate excitement,” Jonah says, “as well as just create more awareness that we’re here.”

But guest speakers and unique films are not the only things that make Cinema Center unique, Kathy says.

They will sometimes have food trucks stationed in their parking lot ahead of special screenings, or will hold discussions after the credits have rolled as well Kathy says.

Kathy says all of this is part of making the trip to Cinema Center more than a film experience.

“To get people to come to the theater,” Kathy says, “its more about making it an event and making it an occasion to come to the theater.”

Jonah says this is not the typical community for independent art theaters, but they have supported the organization continuously.

“The community has always rallied around and helped Cinema Center persevere,” Jonah says.

Moving forward, Cinema Center will continue to bring new events for members such as Hobnobben, Fort Wayne’s first film festival that they hosted for four days last year, Kathy says.

Jonah says they are happy with their current location, but one with more screens, foot traffic, and in the heart of downtown Fort Wayne would be ideal.

For now, Cinema Center will stay in the same location it has been in for over 15 years, and Jonah urges more citizens to visit.

“If you haven’t been here give it a try,” Jonah says. “I mean, there’s no reason not to. We show better films than anybody else and we show films that, you know, are definitely more likely to make you think.”