By Doug Cummings
Arizona Summer Wildcat June 12, 1996
Since 1992, The Screening Room at 127 E. Congress St. has been exhibiting a wide variety of films not generally found in the larger multiplexes throughout Tucson. From independent local films to documentaries and classic movies, the downtown cinema has become a Tucson cultural mainstay.
Recently, the nonprofit Arizona Center for the Media Arts (or ACMA, the organization that develops the Arizona International Film Festival every year) had the opportunity to purchase the building The Screening Room resides in, and the cost of the venture was significant. The ACMA is hoping to raise $11,000 to help pay for the acquisition.
Giulio Scalinger, the director of the ACMA, explains, "The purchase of The Screening Room gives us more stability in that when we approach distributors, we can stress the fact that we own our own facility. Now, no one can kick us out, and Congress will have its own movie theater to enter into the 21st century with."
At Downtown Saturday Night this weekend, the Independent Film and Video Community of Tucson (a new organization established as an offshoot of the New York-based National Association of Independent Film and Video) will host the "Save The Screening Room Benefit." The special event has been organized by local independent filmmakers to help cover the costs of The Screening Room purchase, and the gala will include food and refreshments, South American music by the group Bwiya-Toli, raffles, and exhibitions of recent independent films. Tickets are $15 a person, or $25 a couple.
In addition, there will be a sign-up contest in which the winner will have the opportunity to appear in "Suitors," an independent film that will be shot in Tucson this fall by University of Southern California honors alum, Gil Neuman.
The benefit hopes to raise $5,000 towards the acquisition, and Wendy Behrend, one of the event's organizers, is happy with the community support shown thus far. "The whole community is really coming together," she says, citing businesses like the Congress Grill, Antigone Books, and radio station KFMA 92.1 FM, all of whom have donated food or various items for the raffle. "I just hope the rest of the community is just as supportive and comes to the benefit," Behrend adds.
The music and reception will begin at 7 p.m. and continue until 8 p.m., and will be followed by a screening of various short films by local filmmakers. At 10 p.m., there will be an exhibition of local feature films: Pima Community College's "Casualty Call," Penelope Price's "Dinner," Theron Patterson's "Martin B," and David Wing's "Toka."
The "Save The Screening Room Benefit" is a special thanks from independent filmmakers to The Screening Room, one of the few opportunities for exhibition many local filmmakers have. As Behrend explains, "Without The Screening Room, where else would independent filmmakers show their films?"
For those who would like to participate in the fund-raiser, but cannot attend the gala, donations may be sent to The Screening Room directly at 127 E. Congress St., Tucson, 85701, 622-2262.