After the board of Santa Fe’s Center for Contemporary Arts unceremoniously announced on April 6 that it would close the nonprofit’s cinema and Tank Garage visual arts gallery space—not to mention the bizarre yet reportedly successful informal pledge drive spurred by board member Ellen Premack that followed—the embattled arts org plans to reopen its cinema (and only its cinema) on Thursday, May 11 (not today, as previously announced).
The first film to play at the surviving space? Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, a movie about a guy who becomes so obsessed with someone that he...does stuff and maybe also has vertigo. Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak are among the stars in the 1958 movie, which stands as a fairly accessible way to kick things off.
The screening event falls under the CCA’s Closer Looks series and will also include a panel discussion with board member and film educator David N. Meyer, No Name Cinema co-founder and returning CCA employee Justin Rhody and newly-minted Cinema Director Paul Barnes. Each has chosen other films to play as part of Closer Looks through the rest of the year. And though questions remain about the future of the theater given the last month or so, things are looking up according to Barnes.
“I was pretty much like, ‘The theater needs me!’” Barnes, himself an editor with credits including Ken Burns documentaries, tells SFR of taking on the new position. “I was scared to death to lose this place, because Violet Crown, Regal, the Jean Cocteau...they’re not going to pick up the kind of programming CCA is beloved for.”
Barnes served as a member of CCA’s board in previous years but did not have a seat last month when the board voted to close the organization. While an initial announcement said he’d return as director and as a board member, he says he’s still considering re-taking a seat on the nonprofit’s governing body, but has not come to a final decision.
The CCA’s mission, Barnes says, isn’t to generate money, but rather to continue being the indie theater so many know and love. Still, Barnes notes, he understands that post-COVID dwindling attendance is still a bugbear, even as he’s confident the upcoming slate of films will draw patrons back to the arthouse over time. To wit, CCA will open two films later next week, including director Kelly Reichardt’s Showing Up starring Michelle Williams and French film Other People’s Children from director Rebecca Zlotowski.
Barnes says he’ll also begin penning a newsletter to CCA members regarding upcoming film news, and that he’s been able to re-hire several employees who lost their jobs when the theater semi-closed last month.
Meyer, who has served on the board for roughly two years, tells SFR he understands the community still holds concerns over transparency, but he’s mainly focused on bringing the space’s cinematic offerings back. He describes the CCA’s current situation as “financially stable,” thanks to the aforementioned pledge drive which, according to board chair David Muck last month, raised over $200,000.
“The CCA will resume its role as the dominant art, indie, international and repertory film house,” says Meyer. “It’s always been an anchor in Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico...thanks to the incredible outpouring of donor support. With Paul as the cinema director and his incredible experience and taste, we’re going to be what we’ve always been, which is one of the best film houses in the country—we’re going to be taking that mission very seriously; we’re going to continue to nurture and earn the love.”
While Muck recently told SFR there is still no word on a potential partner organization taking over the Tank Garage visual arts space, discussions continue on that front. Additionally, for now, the CCA website is not offering ticket sales to upcoming screenings, but Barnes says he expects that to be remedied later this week.
Closer Looks: Vertigo: 6 pm Thursday, May 11. $15. Center for Contemporary Arts, 1050 Old Pecos Trail, (505) 982-1338