CT3

Interview: MARK ANASTASIO and The COOLIDGE CORNER THEATER

CTAcross the country, the aspect of the classic theater experience is slowly disappearing like night into day. These historical platforms of class, history, culture and experience have changed lives, hosted legends and presented movie as well as music and art magic… Massachusetts is truly blessed to have several classic theaters throughout the state. One of these incredible temples is located in Brookline, Massachusetts hosting a diverse and impactful range of film, music and live programming all year long! We grabbed one of the infamous and distinctive minds programming minds at the “Coolidge Corner Theater”… the bad ass and stylish Mark Anastasio to delve into the film vs digital, film programming and the local scene for Icons of Fright.

Hey Mark, thanks for taking the time out! You really inspire me with the work you do up in Brookline at the “Coolidge Corner Theater”. What everyone at the “Coolidge” offers to the community and film is overwhelming.

It’s my pleasure! Thank you for thinking of me, Jay!

First, go back and tell me how did you get involved with the “Coolidge Corner Theater”? What was your first thoughts or feelings after you became a programmer?

The Coolidge was the first job I found when I moved to Boston to attend UMASS. I was hired as box office staff and took every job that opened up at the theaterCT1 while I was there. Eventually, the job openings included Assistant to the Program Manager, and the Program Manager position, which I’ve held for three years now. My feelings when I first took over that job mostly involved a desire to continue the success of our signature and first run programming. I wanted to keep the Coolidge weird in these rapidly changing times in the movie industry.

Love the aspect and vision you all have their and wanting to have a personality and fingerprint in the changing tide of film in all of its dark corners. What makes the “Coolidge” so crucial to the Massachusetts film scene? How has the theater grown into the hub for entertainment, memories and movie magic? 

The Coolidge offers a real film going-community. It’s a place for people to come together for an escape into a story. As a non-profit theater, we’re mostly interested in providing a film exhibition experience that can’t be found at a multi-plex. We have 4 screens that play the newest independent and foreign films, as well as numerous repertory programs that allow us to screen the classics, often from 35mm. The fact that we still run 35mm is huge, at a time where digital is the new standard. I think Massachusetts film fans really appreciate our commitment to that format.

The “Coolidge” offers such diverse programming including the “Rewind!” series, “Big Screen Classics”, “Cinema Jukebox”, “Kids Shows”, CT2“Off the Couch”, “Science on the Screen” and more! Your part of this cinema madness and magic is the diverse mostly 35mm eclectic film series “After Midnight” where we see cult, horror, sci-fi, genre and more on the stunning “Coolidge” screen. How did this program come to be and what has the experience been like to program it? What has been some of your favorites? Have there been films that did not go over as well as you thought?

Yes, I do contribute films to all of those signature programs you’ve mentioned, but the “Coolidge After Midnite” is the series that I curate on my own. (I certainly receive guidance/suggestions from our projection and box office staff). The Coolidge has always had a midnite movie program in one form or another. I’ve simply continued that great tradition, while increasing the frequency and volume of 35mm film. The After Midnite program, like all of our others, couldn’t happen without or amazingly skilled projectionists handling film, and our box office staff taking care of our patrons.

We’re on screen EVERY weekend at the “Coolidge After Midnite” running reels of cult cinema. I’ve been involved with the “Coolidge After Midnite” since I began at the theatre, but have been programming it on a weekly basis for the last 6 years. Sometimes it’s tough to maintain a series this frequent, but I get by with the help of our Coolidge staff and our fans. They’re the ones who inspire me to keep it going.

Some of my favorite events include our annual Halloween Horror Marathon. The year we played “DEMONS” sticks out in my mind. Screening that film in packed CT3theatre, while the action on screen was taking place in a theatre, it just electrified our audience! There was a real tangible energy as our guests screamed and jumped at all the right parts!

The worst performing film (much different that the worst film) I’ve ever programmed was “PSYCHO 2”. It’s a movie that I LOVE and thought deserving of an audience. But it posted our lowest attendance in the history of our series! It’s really underrated. I have an original one sheet framed in my living room to remind me of the lesson I learned that night. Not everything I think is great will have an audience.

Those are truly incredible and just a drop in the hat for the films that have screened and the guests that have been a part of your series as well as the programming year around. I know the last two times I attended I saw the 1931 “Dracula” and Joe Cornish’s “Attack the Block” both on 35mm. Flipping incredible! Has the transition from film to digital affected the “After Midnight” series as well as the theater programming? 

About 99% of our first run features are now DCP, so that is a huge change from just 4 years ago where it would have been 100% film. This year we ran “THE MA1HATEFUL 8” in 70mm, as first run title, but aside from special presentations from directors who want their work to be shown on film, we’re fully running digital for new releases.

The “Midnite’s” and our other signature repertory programs are an exception. Older titles are still mostly available on film from their distributors. For weirder stuff, like the cult titles we mostly run at midnight, we’re able to borrow prints from private collectors and archives. The Coolidge is in a fortunate position, as we were able to hold onto our 35mm projectors when we added digital. Some booths were not as lucky. Physical space is the major issue when making that decision.

I was wondering a threefold perspective about how has the programming experience has affected you as fan, curator and help you become an educator?

I think I do watch films differently now as a programmer. I’m always thinking about how an audience would react to what I’m seeing. Even more so, how a Boston audience would engage with a particular film. AS far as being an educator…I don’t know. I like to think of myself as an entertainer. I’m trying to show people a good time. People can certainly learn things from the stuff that I play. But I’m more interested in providing a couple of hours of escape for people, making sure the presentation is a perfect as possible.

What do the fans and the Brookline community of Massachusetts mean to you and the “Coolidge” with support overall?

They mean everything. There is no “Coolidge After Midnite” without the fans, and there is no Coolidge without our theater members. Period.

I can see that, every time I come up the theatre is has a healthy to packed crowd to celebrate the programming. What is coming as part of MAthe “After Midnight” programming on Friday and Saturday this year and where can we find out more? 

You can see all of our upcoming films at www.coolidge.org. In June, we’re screening some Shaw Brothers Kung Fu titles, and in the month of July we have a series called “Summer of Psychosis”, where we’ll screen ten 35mm prints over the five weekends, all titles focusing on characters who completely lose their minds throughout the course of the film!

Love it! We will continue to support this great theater and the ones who make the weird, unique and passionate a focal point for cinema of all generation and genres. My friend I appreciate the time from you today and look forward to the next showing when I am up in Brookline! Keep up the amazing work and education for the film fans!