Save the Secret Cinema at Moore

In an e-mail circulated yesterday, Secret Cinema’s Jay Schwartz announced that the Moore College of Art & Design have decided to end their 15 year relationship with the popular screening series.  While Secret Cinema is known to float between venues, Moore has always served as its home base thanks to “its size, comfortable seating, ideal sight lines, and perfect dimensions for our 16mm screenings, allowing us to create the most cinema-like experience possible…”  Schwartz goes on to explain:

“It seemed a mutually beneficial arrangement, as Moore received free student programming of a very high caliber (Secret Cinema has been invited to bring its unique programming to venues and festivals from San Francisco to Athens, Greece).  Additionally, the college received an immeasurable amount of free publicity and goodwill as a result of hosting Secret Cinema.  Yes, FREE, because Moore never paid money to Secret Cinema, which is self-funded.

For the first 12 years of this arrangement we were assured that we were a valued asset to Moore…and then, our guardian angel administrator was suddenly no longer there. Since then, we were subjected to large raises in rent and red tape, lessened availability of the venue, lack of communication of our programming to the student body, and a growing iciness in communications to us.  We complied, under protest, with these new demands and conditions.

A few weeks ago (in time for Christmas!), we received a three-sentence email from Moore’s recently appointed Dean of Students Ruth Robbins, a person we had had no prior communication from (and indeed, had never even heard of).  It said: “I am writing to notify you that your contract for Secret Cinema at Moore College of Art & Design is up for renewal as of December 13, 2011.  We have decided not to renew the contract going forward.  I wish you the best of luck with Secret Cinema.”

Just like that. After 15 years, and well over 150 screenings, bringing thousands of nice people through their doors for the first time.”

Cinedelphia inquired about the College’s decision and received the following message from President Dr. Happy Craven Fernandez (aka Gladys “Happy” Fernandez):

We appreciate the value Secret Cinema has brought to the Moore community as well as Philadelphia’s film community.  For many years, Moore provided Secret Cinema with a venue free-of-charge and then at minimal cost.  Due to the challenging economic times and the fact that in recent years few students have chosen to participate, the College has decided to end the agreement.

They obviously have their reasons for ending the relationship, whatever they may be.

The lack of Moore as a main outpost for Secret Cinema puts their entire operation into jeopardy and thus Schwartz is imploring Secret Cinema fans to reach out to Moore and let the importance of their venue be known.  You can access the College’s staff directory here (a more precise list of Moore employees that you should contact can be found on Secret Cinema’s frontpage) .

And in other Secret Cinema news…

The YouTube video of the Willow Grove Amusement Park from user “SecretCinemaDVD” that Philebrity posted earlier this week has nothing to do with Schwartz’s Secret Cinema.  No amount of Googling could uncover any information about Schwartz’s home video doppelgangers and I haven’t received a response to my YouTube message thus far.

Also, Secret Cinema now has a Facebook fan page.

Official site.

And on a related note, I snapped the below photo at a Moore-held Secret Cinema event last year.  This student project involving an imaginary revamp of the Boyd Theatre was hanging in the gallery outside of the auditorium.  At least someone there has the Philly film community on their mind.

Author: Eric Bresler

Eric is the Founder/Site Editor of whose additional activities are numerous: Director/Curator of the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA), founder of Tokyo No Records, the brain behind Video Pirates, and active local film programmer including the Unknown Japan screening series. He’s served as a TLA Video Manager, Philadelphia Film Society Managing Director, and Adjunct Professor in Cinema Studies at Drexel University. He is shy and modest. Email Eric.

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