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The Screening Room celebrates its 10th anniversary with film series

By Graig Uhlin
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
November 12, 1999
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It doesn't have stadium seating or 20 screens, but The Screening Room, an exhibitor of independent, experimental, documentary and foreign films, has made a larger impact on Tucson culture than any multiplex in this city.

The Screening Room celebrates its 10th anniversary this weekend with a film series entitled "10 Films That Shook The Screening Room."

The Screening Room began on Nov. 16, 1989, when it opened its doors at 127 E. Congress St. The Arizona Media Arts Center, a non-profit organization devoted to the promotion of independent film production, distribution and exhibition, founded the theater in order to provide a forum for independent films that would never reach mainstream theaters.

With their non-profit safety net, The Screening Room could exhibit controversial, esoteric works that they found Tucson wanted.

"There is much more than Hollywood films, much more than foreign films. There is a whole different culture out there," The Screening Room Director Guilio Scalinger said.

During the past decade, The Screening Room has worked in collaboration with many ethnic and minority groups toward the exhibition of films that appeal to those groups but would never play in a mainstream theater.

Such collaborations have yielded well-known film festivals such as the Cine Latino Film Festival and the Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.

The Screening Room also has a solid track record of exhibiting Native American films and has been a host to the Arizona International Film Festival since its beginning in 1990.

"We look at the community and see who needs to see films that they can identify with. It's a mixture of a lot of different types of ethnic groups that weren't really represented in theaters," Scalinger said.

When the theater opened, it was little more than a storefront. The location had previously been a shoe store, a club and a wig store, but never a movie theater.

The conversion, according to the city, had too many violations for a place of exhibition, with doors opening the wrong way and not enough bathroom stalls.

"We broke every rule in the book," Scalinger said.

The violations meant a renovation was needed. So in April 1991, an 18-month renovation that was supposed to be only six months began.

The theater was shut down but reopened in 1992 before the renovation had even finished, because, according to Scalinger, they needed to show films in order to stay alive. What has resulted is a relaxed theater environment that holds 130 people and even serves as a classroom to Scalinger's Exhibition Management class at the UA.

"Since The Screening Room started for local, we are going to focus on local films from the past 10 years," Scalinger said of the 10th anniversary screenings.

This includes the first film to be exhibited at The Screening Room, a film/video essay made by UA Media Arts assistant professor Michael Mulcahy and two "Best of Arizona" winners from the 1998 and 1999 Arizona International Film Festivals.

Single admission is $4, $3 for matinees. Passes for 10 admissions are available for $10. For information, call 622-2262.

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