Archive for the DIY is killing the arts Category

A recent story in the Mpls Star-Tribune, Hope flickers out for Oak Street Cinema, describes the impending doom, after three years of struggle, of a beloved repertory theater.

After two years of speculation and a public battle over its future, cherished art-film theater Oak Street Cinema is expected to be sold after the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF) ends May 3. Its most likely fate: Demolition to make way for a housing and retail development.

The issue at hand appears to be the financial status of the small nonprofit arts org, Minnesota Film Arts, that owns the theater. The Oak Street Cinema was founded in 1995 by a group that renovated a 92-year-old theater near the University of Minnesota. Minnesota Film Arts, which has run the successful MSPIFF for more than 30 years, merged with the Oak Street Cinema several years ago. In 2004, new management at MFA allowed debts to run up–leading to firings, staff resignations, and a cycle of ever-deepening red ink.

Since the spring of 2005, the doors of the Oak Street Cinema have only periodically been open and staff remains in flux. In January 2006, MFA’s board said the theater might need to be sold, triggering a public protest by Oak Street founders and others. Still, the last public tax filing by MFA, in 2005, showed a standing debt of $145,000, and selling the theater was considered the favorite option to clear the debt and pave the way for a reorganization of MFA (so it could refocus its energy back on MSPIFF).

“The festival carries the long tradition of film in Minnesota forward,” said the current board chair of MFA. “We want to continue to focus on that tradition.”