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» Cinematour Forum   » Cinemas in the News   » #2386: Oak Street Cinema

Author Topic: #2386: Oak Street Cinema
Carroll H. Rasch
New Member

Posts: 25
From: Saint Louis Park, MN
Registered: Apr 2005

 - posted March 09, 2008 07:38 AM      Profile for Carroll H. Rasch   Email Carroll H. Rasch         Edit/Delete Post 
from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (or, The "Red Star" chuckle):

(The StarTrib's articles on the internet have a short half-life. So, this will be gone soon.)

This cinema is at the edge of the East Bank of the University of Minnesota just East of the Medical School. Long before it was the "Oak Street Cinema" it was the "Campus." I was a regular there during the Grad School years of the 1960s and watched what I now remember as dozens of Soviet/Russian films which featured bleak horizons, flowing rivers, migrating cranes and endless suffering. I thought they were very deep and mandatory to my typical anti-American Liberal education in the 1960s <chuckle>. As my income rose and my politics drifted slightly back toward the Right (my connections to the mandatory Liberalism of Liberal Arts became more tenuous with the passage of time.), I attended less frequently but always checked to see what was playing... If there was a 1930s through 1950 film that I had not seen on the big screen, I was there. I attended few of the film festivals in its later reincarnation. It will be a sad loss if it vanishes. [Shrug]

[ March 10, 2008, 08:48 AM: Message edited by: Carroll H. Rasch ]

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Adam Martin

Posts: 1090
From: Dallas, TX
Registered: Feb 2003

 - posted March 10, 2008 07:31 PM      Profile for Adam Martin   Author's Homepage   Email Adam Martin         Edit/Delete Post 
Hope flickers out for Oak Street Cinema

The theater is likely to be sold to developers and torn down for new construction. Founder Bob Cowgill calls it an

By MEGAN KADRMAS, Star Tribune

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 ends May 3. Its most likely fate:
Demolition to make way for a housing and retail development.

Minnesota Film Arts (MFA), which owns the Oak, is "in serious negotiations" with a group of developers and investors who own property around the theater, at 309 SE. Oak St. in Minneapolis near the University of Minnesota's East Bank
campus, said board member Dr. Stephen Zuckerman.

The group, which has given MFA earnest money to demonstrate its seriousness, has been interested in the property for
some time but backed off from negotiations about six months ago because of worries about the economy, Zuckerman

"It's questionable whether [Oak Street] will remain a theater," he said. More likely, it will make way for a mix of
high-density student housing and retail space. Theater staff recently spotted a surveying crew outside the theater.

Oak Street Cinema was founded in 1995 by a group led by Bob Cowgill, now a professor at Augsburg College.
Renovating a 92-year-old building that originally housed the Campus Theater, they turned it into a destination for film
lovers, with a mix of American and foreign classics, and appearances by such luminaries as director Terry Gilliam.

But MFA's finances have been in jeopardy since Cowgill left the executive directorship in the fall of 2004. The
organization quickly ran up a debt of more than $145,000, according to its 2005 tax form, the most recent on file. The
new executive director, Jamie Hook, was fired in September 2005 for mismanagement that included missing deadlines
for grants worth more than $50,000. Other staff members resigned or were laid off as the red ink mounted.

In January 2006, MFA's board said the theater might need to be sold, triggering a public protest by Cowgill and others
who formed a group called Save the Oak.

"This is an outrage," Cowgill said Wednesday. "I offered my help to this board and they shut me out. They have wanted
to sell the Oak since the beginning."

Zuckerman said selling the theater would clear the debt and pave the way for a reorganization of MFA, which also runs
the film festival. It also would take the financial burden off MFA board member Tim Grady and co-founder Al
Milgrom, who have helped the group stay afloat with their own money.

"Al Milgrom and Tim Grady gave a lot of blood, sweat and money to this organization," Zuckerman said.

According to Grady, he's put at least $75,000 into the organization -- a personal loan made against the theater building
and property, which he has valued at upwards of $600,000. He would not discuss the MFA's plans Wednesday, saying
only that he would talk after the festival.

"These people need to be watched very closely now," Cowgill said. "Where is the money going? Is [Grady] getting
interest on his loan?"

Bell out of the picture, too

The MFA also has lost its longtime lease at the university's nearby Bell Auditorium, where Milgrom has been screening
films since 1962.

Sue Weinberg, director of real estate for the University of Minnesota, said the university dropped the long-standing
agreement because of outstanding debt and the difficulty of maintaining required insurance information on MFA's
ever-changing staff.

The lease was replaced with a use-by-use agreement, she said.

The Bell is not included in MFA's plans for the festival, scheduled to open April 17. Instead, films will be shown at the
Oak and the St. Anthony Main theater, which has five screens across the river from downtown Minneapolis.

Regardless of what happens with the theaters, the festival will continue, Zuckerman said.

"The festival carries the long tradition of film in Minnesota forward," he said. "We want to continue to focus on that

Megan Kadrmas is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.

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