Posted at 5:58 PM on December 18, 2009
by Euan Kerr
Filed under: Film
You had to look very closely at the Minnesota Film Arts newsletter to see that after years of teetering on the edge the Oak Street Cinema is closing. Once the battleground for strident Twin Cities film fans, the future of the Oak no longer seems to whip up the cineaste blood.
Instead the newsletter focused on the screening of the new print of "Ronia the Robber's Daughter" a quarter century long holiday tradition at the MFA, and before that at the U Film Society. There's a new print this year, and once again the MFA anticipates large crowds for the classic adaptation of Astrid Lindgren's tale. It turns out these screenings may be the last for some time at the Oak Street
The release then mentions the MFA is relocating to an office next door to the St Anthony Main theaters which has served as the base for the Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival for the last couple of years. There is a small aside that this is where the MFA will now do its year round programming.
MFA programmer Ryan Oestreich says there is actually more to the story. Reached by cell phone as he helped with the move to the new offices, he says he is also taking over as the general manager for St Anthony Main, so he'll have two employers.
He sees the new arrangement as advantageous to MFA. He says having several screens available will allow him flexibility in scheduling movies which he didn't have at Oak Street. Oestreich says an MFA film can be blended in with the more commercial fare at St Anthony, and perhaps offer more opportunities for the arthouse crowd to catch it.
"One screen is great for now," he said, "But there is a huge possibility to go two, three, maybe even four screens, if this venture is very successful.
He says St Anthony is also just a more attractive location. When asked if it's a loss to no longer be on campus, given the decades long association with the U of M, Oestreich says St Anthony has long been the easy option for U students wanting to catch the latest Hollywood fare, so he sees it as a de facto campus theater.
He also stresses the Oak Street isn't going away. It will be part of future MSPIFF's and other MFA events.
"The Oak Street will be used for galas, and parties, special events and rentals," he said. "So it's still kind of the jewel of the organization."
he says the plans to demolish the Oak and redevelop the block are now abandoned, and now he says he wants to make sure it remains a viable venue to be available for big events. However he admits the long-term future of the Oak is still very much in the air.
Oestreich says he hopes to develop St Anthony as a place where there will be an arthouse feel, and provide venues for movies not picked up by the Landmark chain which runs the Uptown, Lagoon and Edina theaters. he hopes to arrange theatrical premieres and arrange visits by directors in support of their films.
In the meantime Oestreich is just getting pumped for the screening of "Ronia" and seeing families who have made the screening an annual holiday treat. He says there are families where the tradition now spans generations.
He also says to keep watching the MFA web site for updates as things develop. Or, he says, he hopes people will just drop by the new offices at St Anthony Main.