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MSP Film Society To Transform St. Anthony Main Theater Into A Hub For Local Cinema

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's no secret that movie theaters have struggled during the pandemic, but the MSP Film Society is hoping to change that.

"Going to the movies is part of our culture. It's what we do," said Jesse Bishop, MSP Film Society programming director.

As the Film Society celebrates its 60th year, they've been exploring ways to create more exposure for young filmmakers. Now, they think they've found it.

"We feel that Minneapolis should have a center, a film center, a media center, and this will be it," said Susan Smoluchowski, MSP Film Society executive director.

For more than a decade, the film society has been using the historic St. Anthony Main theater for the annual Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival. But thanks to a newly-signed long-term lease, they'll be able to use the theater year-round, and take advantage of its five screens, giving Minnesota filmmakers more screen time.

"It gives them a sort of trophy to the work they have done over the years. Not just to see films, but also making films," said Craig Rice, MSP Film Society programmer.

The St. Anthony Main movie theater has not been renovated since it opened in 1985. The plan is to do a facelift on the theater, while keeping some of its historic features intact. Renderings show sound and picture upgrades along with more open spaces and new flooring.

"There are a lot of donors. It's run by very intelligent people," said Ben May, a Minnesota filmmaker.

May's documentary "The Legend of Swee' Pea," received praise at the film festival. He believes year-round access to independent films in Minneapolis is a game-changer.

"That's going to be huge," May said. "It's a massive opportunity for this community."

The plan is still to show International and even Hollywood Blockbuster movies at the Main. But now local filmmakers will also get far more time on the big screen.

"This is a flagship now for the Twin Cities but actually for the whole region to be receptive to the films that are put out by people in this community," Rice said.

"This is kind of our way of moving into the next 60 years," Smoluchowski said.

The film society is hoping to have the renovations done before this year's Minneapolis International Film Festival in May.

Funding the lease was made possible through donors, supporters, and grants.

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