Acropolis Cinema doesn’t have an address, but it does have a plan.
The roving screening series, which launches tonight with the Los Angeles premiere of Raya Martin and Mark Peranson's La última película at the Los Feliz 3, is the brainchild of local film critic Jordan Cronk. Since all that's necessary for evil to triumph is that good cinephiles do nothing, the DTLA-based programmer has taken it upon himself to stop bemoaning the state of experimental-film exhibition in L.A. and start booking events himself.
Cronk describes the impetus for launching Acropolis as “a general frustration with not simply the amount of art-house and experimental films that play in Los Angeles (we get plenty), but even more so the kinds of films that screen here.” L.A. doesn’t lack for cinematic institutions specializing in older and/or outré offerings, but a dispiriting number of worthwhile titles inevitably falls through the cracks despite their efforts — the bottom line is the bottom line, after all, and there’s only so much the likes of Cinefamily, REDCAT and L.A. Filmforum can do. “We have a handful of organizations who have made impressive strides in bringing certain sects of noncommercial cinema to the city,” Cronk acknowledges, “but there’s nonetheless a distinct lack of a certain strain of contemporary art cinema on offer.”
He would know. The avant-garde enthusiast makes yearly treks to the Cannes and Toronto film festivals, which, though enriching for obvious reasons, can also prove frustrating — being exposed to these films in other cities and countries only strengthens his resolve that they should play in L.A. as well.
This inaugural screening is especially exciting, given that it’s being co-presented by Foreign Exchange Blu-ray Imports — a recently opened store in Culver City that deals exclusively in Blu-rays from exotic regions. Alarmists are always declaring the death of film, so it’s heartening to see pushback against that wisdom.
Though still in its early stages, this new venture has a clear mission statement. “What I hope Acropolis can accommodate, at least, initially, is that narrow market of undistributed features and experimental films that otherwise have trouble finding a home out here, even for a single evening.” Also on its radar are experimental shorts, the “ever-orphaned, medium-length film” and, when appropriate, older titles of interest as well.
To that end, Acropolis has already announced its next several screenings. Two weeks after La última película, Pleats of Matter: The Films of Blake Williams comes to Automata; 88:88, which won acclaim at the Locarno Film Festival last summer, plays at the Echo Park Film Center on March 11. All of these films are making landfall in L.A. for the first time.
Having access to these movies hasn’t been the problem. Any number of filmmakers and distributors would like nothing more than to see their work make it to the second-largest market in the country. The primary roadblock has been exhibition, which is why events move from one location to the next. “With the kinds of films Acropolis will likely be showing, that means smaller venues and art spaces will be our primary targets. But on the occasion that we show a relatively more accessible film — like, say, La última película — then we can take a chance on a bigger venue.”
It’ll be a boon for local film culture if this effort continues to go well. For as many art-house and revival theaters as we have, there’s a certain restlessness among area cinephiles, a tendency to focus on what doesn’t make it here rather than what does. As the center of the film industry, we have no excuse not to be doing better.