A pair of Ogden entrepreneurs are trying to find out if their town can be a spot for art-house cinema, 28 seats at a time.
Art House Cinema 502 opened Aug. 5 in a tiny venue in downtown Ogden. Lily Randall, a native New Yorker who had been stationed at Hill Air Force Base until her recent retirement, decided along with her husband, Utah native Joel Layton, to bring their love of foreign and independent films to a city that hasn't had a spot to watch smaller films of that kind except during Sundance. "We just sit at home watching films," Randall says, "so we decided to create a hobby for ourselves."
Rather than attempt to renovate an existing theater space, Randall and Layton decided to keep the operation small. They're currently projecting from their Blu-Ray player, and have launched a Kickstarter campaign for an upgrade to a server for smoother exhibition of films and trailers. Their debut weekend included screenings of the Sundance 2011 films Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same and Hobo With a Shotgun, as well as the documentary Queen of the Sun. All the films were booked by Randall and Layton from the distributors or filmmakers; Randall and Layton got in touch directly with the director of Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same, which is currently without a distributor, and are giving the filmmaker back 100 percent of the ticket sales.
Other titles scheduled for August include the Korean film Poetry and the American independent drama Putty Hill--small titles that haven't even been booked by the Salt Lake Film Society. "We're just bringing in things we think are interesting, and that we want to see," Randall says.
The opening weekend averaged about six patrons per screening, which Randall was satisfied with considering their advertising had consisted exclusively of Facebook and word-of-mouth; some visitors even came up from Salt Lake City, which is fairly simple given a location just a few blocks from the Ogden FrontRunner station. Randall and Layton are keeping expectations manageable, even as most art-houses nationwide have had to look to non-profit status to stay viable. Says Randall, "The only reason we didn't set it up as a non-profit is because I don't like paperwork."