Turning the Lens on Local Filmmakers

Event Date(s): Jul 6, 2024

Theatrikos extends local cinema through Downtown Films.

In a timely addition to Flagstaff’s summer schedule this year, Theatrikos Theatre Company has launched an extension to an existing film series, Downtown Films, which has operated in a successful partnership with the Sedona International Film Festival since last summer.

This local edition of Downtown Films casts a strong focus on Flagstaff’s vibrant local film community, especially its filmmakers. “Theatrikos always strives to support the local Flagstaff community,” said Theatrikos Executive Director Chris Verrill. “Primarily that is through live theatre, but also through other endeavors like supporting local filmmakers and fans of local films.”

The series began June 24 with “Changing Gears: Flagstaff and the Mountain Bike,” a humorous historical documentary on the origins of mountain biking in the area.

The mountain bike film highlights the connection between local filmmakers and the active Flagstaff lifestyle. It debuted 10 years ago to a sold-out audience invited to embark on a journey through history, while supporting local artists.

Local filmmaker Chris Gunn, who serves as chair of the Theatrikos’ Downtown Films Committee, directed the film. “It was so much fun to hear the audience laugh during and asking questions afterwards,” Gunn said about the premiere of his film a decade ago. “I’m proud to have documented Flagstaff’s role in the beginning of a worldwide movement that now includes all ages and skill levels. If I say so myself, it’s a good and fun story.”

The “Changing Gears” screening included a question-and-answer panel discussion with the filmmaker and local legends from the film. This format is repeated at each of the monthly Downtown Films presentations, which are slated to continue through December.

“Downtown Films at Theatrikos encourages local folks as well as tourists to catch dinner and a film downtown,” said Gunn. “There is a great variety of films offered between those the Sedona International Film Festival shows and now these films of local filmmakers on local topics. As one member of our committee said, ‘We’re contributing to the positive vibe of Flag’s downtown nightlife on weekdays.’” All films will be screened at the historic Doris Harper-White Playhouse, which was built in 1923 and has long been a focus of social life downtown on West Cherry Ave., beginning as the original Elks Club and the first Flagstaff Library.

The theatre has long been known as an intimate black box venue where performances seat 118 patrons who are never more than five rows away from the stage area.

Recently, the theatrical and cinematic experience at the Doris Harper-White Playhouse has been further enhanced with the installation of a state-of-the-art sound system and a cutting-edge projector.

This investment in top-tier technology ensures that every screening delivers a high-quality, immersive experience, according to a Theatrikos press release in June.

Verrill says bringing cinematic entertainment in on weeknights, when the theatre would otherwise be dark, has allowed Theatrikos to better serve the Flagstaff community, and has also been a good business move.

“From a financial standpoint, films are also smart business,” he said. “It brings in a new audience, which helps cross-promote our main stage shows. Plus, it diversifies our revenue streams. And that’s always smart business. We’ve only been at this for a year and we’re already breaking even. So, we’re on the right track. It’s wonderful when good art and good business go hand in hand.”

The partnership with SIFF has also been a rewarding collaboration. “Sedona International Film Festival has been a great partner in every sense of the word,” he added. “They have a 30-year track record of successfully bringing films to Northern Arizona. Aside from the local films, SIFF curates all the other films. Being able to depend on their expertise is why Downtown Films is succeeding.”

In the meantime, Theatrikos is working on “Route 66 to the Grand Canyon,” a show that is scheduled to launch in 2026 with the 100th anniversary of Route 66. FBN

By Betsey Bruner, FBN

For the 2024 film schedule, visit www.theatrikos.com.

Courtesy Photo: The movie, “Kinky Boots” entertained audiences during the May 2023
Downtown Films series presented by Theatrikos in partnership with the Sedona International
Film Festival.