Art Beat: The Kalamazoo Film Society At 30

Nov 29, 2018

Celebration! Cinema in Portage, the main venue for the Kalamazoo Film Society
Credit Andy Robins / WMUK

Everyone loves a good movie. We all hear about the big showstoppers: the movies with big stars and flashy special effects. But they may not be the best movies. For 30 years, the mission of the Kalamazoo Film Society has been to show first-run, world-class, independent and foreign films that would otherwise not be offered locally.

Kalamazoo Film Society President Michael Marchak tells the story of its humble beginnings.

“In the early 1980’s, we had an art film cinema in town,” Marchak says. “The Bijou was in the Radisson downtown and had about three theatres. It lasted for about six years. When they closed their doors, the film buffs decided they didn’t want to let it go. We all met for a series of meetings and pitched in, and we put together an organization called the Kalamazoo Film Society.”

The all-volunteer, non-profit group started in 1988. It began presenting films that were featured at the Sundance, Cannes, or other film festivals.

“We had to find a place to show our movies,” Marchak says. KFS has moved many times from venue to venue, as opportunities arose and then faded. Right now it shows its films at Celebration! Cinema Crossroads in Portage. “We showed our movies at the Alamo, in downtown Kalamazoo, but when that left, we moved to Portage. But, although we are now at a commercial cinema, we are bringing films to town that nobody else is touching.”

Marchak says commercial cinemas often don’t see enough of a profit in offering some of the films that KFS shows, even though they may have won honors as the best films of the year.

“If they don’t have the box office, they don’t look at it,” Marchak says.

An annual KFS membership fee includes discounts on the films it shows at Celebration! Cinema. The fee also supports the Society's efforts to bring in foreign and cutting-edge independent films. Members also get a newsletter and updates on various film society events.

The Kalamazoo Film Society will screen Boy Erased, featuring Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, and Joel Edgerton, is showing at the Celebration! Cinema. Check its website for show times.

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