On Friday, June 26, Cinema Detroit hosts Nicolas Uncaged II: Another Celebration of Cinematic Excellence. While the mini film fest offers two films starring the Oscar winner—and the films fall into the acceptable-to-decent range of Mr. Cage's oeuvre—half the fun of any event at Cinema Detroit is exploring the theater's 100-year old building. Built in 1912, and formerly the Burton International School, the property closed as a public school and was purchased by developer Joel Landy in 2009.
As the city lost population, many schools closed, including three more that Landy purchased. Between 2000 and 2010, the city closed more than 70 schools. Enrollment in Detroit continues to decline. Landy paid $400,000 for the Burton School in 2009, and has since leased the theater space to three different operations, most recently, Cinema Detroit. Movies at cinema Detroit screen in the school's former auditorium, which had a projection booth installed in 1924. In addition to the theater, the building houses a Montessori school and several other businesses. At Cinema Detroit, you see the usual old-world treasures—bronze-and-glass chandeliers, wood and marble galore—the men's room holds a special place in many a local filmgoer's heart with its row of 50s urinals and pool table.
Paula and Tim Guthat own the cinema (they rent space from Landy). Paula Guthat calls her business a true labor of love. "We wanted to build film culture in the city and did it on our own dime," she said. The Guthats also try to highlight Detroit's homegrown filmmakers, and recently extended the run of the city-made It Follows to a full month. From the glass bottles of Faygo and Detroit Popcorn in the concession stands, to many of the films screened there, the Guthats' philosophy for the theater is "American made, screened in Detroit."
Nic Uncaged includes screenings of Raising Arizona and Vampire's Kiss, as well as a costume contest, door prizes and live readings of Cage-inspired poetry. The pre-movie social hour starts at 6:30 and a limited number of tickets are still available. - Rebecca Golden