I hear…end credits music…
Or, to quote that great philosopher, Porky Pig, “Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!”
And not getting up.
“Kelly, FilmBar owner, here. Surely, many of you have noticed that we’ve been closed for about a month with no updates. Please excuse the silence. I’ve had a lot to think about. This quiet time has helped me accept the inevitable: that is, that FilmBar will not be reopening.”
Of all the movie joints in all the towns in the world, I walked into the FilmBar years ago.
The FilmBar was—ug, it hurts to talk about it in the past tense—an oasis of culture in a dry, hot desert.
And, really, an oasis in what seems like a dried-up world of mainstream movies.
It doesn’t look like much, from the outside—a funky, converted warehouse/industrial vibe, across Second street from the excellent Angels Trumpet Ale House (about a hundred beers on tap and home-made pop tarts, what’s not to like?), sandwiched between Lucky’s Indoor Outdoor and Cobra Arcade Bar on one of the coolest blocks in Arizona.
Stumbling into FilmBar for the first time, I thought, “Um, wrong place? How’d I end up in a speakeasy?” Then, in a duh moment, I got the second part of the place’s name: A dive-ish little bar in front of the theater was just one of the joint’s charms. The theater itself is kind of a high school gym meets theater rehearsal room. A few rows of modest seats; none of those fancy recliners with trays and drink cups like the big players now offer. FilmBar also had several cocktail tables at the rear of the theater.
Even with the lights on, the joint was on the dark, underground side…
I probably went there a few dozen times over the last decade; now, of course, I wish I had gone more.
Usually one of just nine or ten in the place, I saw the likes of Zhang Yimou’s masterful swords-and-flying kicks “Shadow” and Armando Iannucci’s brilliantly witty “Stalin is Dead.”
Sure, you can watch those and many more foreign and non-mainstream offerings on places like Amazon Prime and the Criterion Channel—which, maybe is why the FilmBar is down.
By becoming a frequent streamer during the pandemic, did I contribute (even indirectly) to the death of this great, almost sacred moviehouse?
After closing at the outset of the pandemic, cautiously reopening last year only to lock the doors near the end of 2021 for repairs, FilmBar owner Kelly Aubey did a jump cut to a surprise, heart-breaking ending:
“The strains of COVID have been too great and I don’t believe the future of small for-profit arthouse cinemas is very bright. We were already operating on a razor’s edge and COVID has reduced the percentage of people who would normally come out to a show anytime in the near future to a point that’s no longer supportable…”
In thanking supporters who “helped us bring unusual, thought-provoking shows to Phoenix for nearly 11 years,” he left just a glimmer of hope.
"I believe it’s possible to rebuild as a non-profit. In retrospect, we probably should have done that from the beginning. It’s not impossible that I’ll have another go at this as a non-profit but right now I need to rest a bit.”
Then again, the FilmBar owner's post seemed like a stake in the vampire's chest:
“I should also mention that we’ll be open this Saturday, Sunday and Monday (Jan 22, 23, 24) from noon - 7pm in hopes of selling everything. A TON of A/V equipment and cabling, some networking equipment, furniture, a kegerator (fitted for 12 1/6 barrels) and other restaurant equipment, bottles of wine, some FilmBar memorabilia, and more. Hope to see you in for this.”
An opportunity for collectors, but a dagger for patrons.
The reaction was fast and feverish.
A sampling of comments:
Jim Dustan: “TY Kelly and crew for operating FilmBar Phoenix and opening your doors to view not only great films but also giving numerous musical acts a place to perform and experiment.”
Tamara Brewington Reddy: “Oh this hurts my heart. I am so so so sorry you are forced into this decision and I am so sorry for all of us that will miss FilmBar so much.”
Mike Boysen: “A huge loss for downtown Phoenix! We have many good memories from FilmBar!”
Kim Blake: “I loved seeing films at Filmbar! It was the only theater I went to with any regularity in the last decade. This is very sad news.”
Aubey noted Andrea Canales, who put together the FilmBar’s eclectic, electric lineup, “has joined the team over at Majestic Theatres and will be bringing a lot of the same kind of programming we’ve had at FilmBar to their screens.” (There are Majestic Theatre locations in Tempe, Chandler and Gilbert.)
So that could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Though, as Boysen mentioned above, this creates a gaping wound in the downtown Phoenix scene, we’ll always have Second Street.
Here’s looking at you, FilmBar.