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Your donation will support The Ithacan's student journalists in their effort to keep the Ithaca College and wider Ithaca community informed. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Cinemapolis: Films educate community

Cinemapolis+has+five+screens%2C+whereas+other+independent+movie+theaters+often+have+one+or+two+screens%2C+making+it+possible+for+them+to+host+a+great+array+of+screenings.
Lucia Iandolo
Cinemapolis has five screens, whereas other independent movie theaters often have one or two screens, making it possible for them to host a great array of screenings.

Beyond just films, Cinemapolis is a theater that uses art as a medium to enrich Ithaca residents’ lives. Through the theater’s screenings, it exposes the community to independent and international films that might otherwise not reach such an extensive audience. 

Kate Donahue, the executive director at Cinemapolis, said the theater’s purpose is to explore the power of film to entertain, to educate and to celebrate the human experience.

“I think that Cinemapolis is the home to movies you can’t see anywhere else,Donahue said. “We also work hard to keep our ticket prices low. So even when we’re showing the best you can see elsewhere, we’re making those movies accessible to audiences and just helping them kind of fall in love with cinema, find a way to movie and have great experiences.” 

Another unique feature at this first-run movie theater is its work with film festivals that provide a platform to a diverse array of artists. Donahue said it is not only the filmmakers that they consider artists, but the programmers who are thinking about the statement they want to raise awareness through a festival or screening. 

“Very often we feature local films that are tied very closely to the missions of some local partner organizations,” Donahue said. “Recently we had an event with Cayuga Health and Cornell Cooperative Extension that featured a short documentary about inequalities in the American healthcare system and how that has been experienced by people locally, and it was part of a discussion on how to address healthcare inequality. I’m excited that we are that kind of community hub. I think that our partnerships are part of what really makes us special.” 

In recent years, Cinemapolis has implemented new initiatives like franchise screenings and “And The Winner Is…, an annual fundraiser screening of the Oscars. Donahue said that while the Cinemapolis team always makes sure to have different blockbusters, franchises, indies and even documentaries playing, their mission has been so spread throughout the community that much of the time, it’s the artists who approach them.

“The other way that [programming] may happen is that we are approached by partner organizations who say, you know, ‘We have a film that is really important to our mission, can Cinemapolis help us show this?Donahue said.And we’re very excited, you know, to have those partnerships. And then another thing that happens is we do have partner film festivals, where someone comes to us and says, ‘This is the vision of this film festival. This is what we’re trying to achieve.’” 

Cinemapolis hosts the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival (FLEFF), which has been held since 1997. The theme for the 2024 Edition of FLEFF is “Turbulence,” and it will be going from April 1–14.  Last year, Cinemapolis opened its doors to the Republic Justice Film Festival and the Ithaca Experimental Film Festival for the first time. The Ithaca Experimental Film Festival was started by some Ithaca College graduates who wanted to feature some more avantgarde short films, while the Reproductive Justice Film Festival was a diverse collection of films about the importance of providing access to reproductive health care to women in the United States and around the world. 

Donahue said these movies create opportunities for people to reflect on themes and ideas, find how it resonates with them and how they might want to change their own lives or  their community in response to what they’re seeing.

“I think that a lot of the way we consume media right now in this country and around the world is a kind of isolating experience some of the time, but one of the reasons I am proud to work for a movie theater is that I feel like Cinemapolis is a venue where community is really formed and fostered,” Donahue said.

Donahue also said that even though there is no promise that every event being pitched can be done, they are always open to answering possible partner’s questions, where they have a form to submit requests for events or event inquiries. 

For those events that make it beyond the form, a screening can be secured. Another unique characteristic of Cinemapolis is that they have five screens, compared to other independent movie theaters which often have one or two screens. Donahue said the amount of screens makes it possible for them to show a wide variety of movies and have these appealing array of events. 

“I think it’s sort of worth recognizing that this is something special and … to say that it’s tough to keep a movie theater going in a lot of ways, and Cinemapolis has survived for almost 40 years,” Donahue said. “And I think that’s happened because this community does recognize that it’s something special and … has come out to support this theater in many ways over the years. I’m so grateful for that, and very hopeful that it will continue for many years to come.”

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About the Contributors
Mariana Contreras, Assistant Life and Culture Editor
Lucia Iandolo, Videographer
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