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The Oak Street re-opens - for now

Posted at 4:46 PM on June 6, 2006 by Euan Kerr

The Oak Street Theater will re-open this weekend with screenings of the Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival Best of Fest selection "As it is in Heaven."

The Oak has been pretty much dark since the end of the Festival, and I was intrigued by the press release sent out by Minnesota Film Arts which declared "The Oak Street Cinema Returns For Now."

This release came out shortly after a message from Bob Cowgill, one of the co-founders of the Oak Street who led an effort by a group called "Friends of the Oak" to raise money from supporters to keep the Oak as a repertory house. Cowgill and friends are worried the movie house will be sold to pay off the MFA's substantial debts.

At a meeting in April Cowgill collected pledges of $40,000 to be used to keep the Oak open as a rep theater with a new board dedicated to that mission. However in his e-mail last week Cowgill was quite blunt:

"I have been clearly told by the chair of the Board of Directors of Minnesota Film Arts that they will not work with me or the Save the Oak Street group. My efforts to show the board that there was community will to save the theater has been seen as a hostile attack. Obviously the strategy failed."

Cowgill then released the pledgees of their obligation.

With all this in mind I called over to the MFA and talked with Al Milgrom who told me he is programming the Oak through the end of June, but he is not sure what will happen then. A lot depends on the turn out for the movies over the next few weeks. He says money is so tight they can't afford to bring in several movies at a time as the Oak once did.

Milgrom says there is staff to run the Oak and it's sister theater the Bell, but he says there is no-one running the office other than him, and he has to travel in July.

He says he is looking to an MFA board meeting tonight to see what the future may hold.

June 2006
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