Citing the changing film industry and “systemic challenges that show no signs of abating,” Champaign’s Art Theater has announced to patrons that its single screen will go dark on Oct. 31.
The iconic downtown theater, best know for showing cinematic arts, movie classics, and hosting film festivals, has already stopped showing movies.
The Art Film Foundation informed patrons via email and Facebook. It has posted the goodbye letter on its website.
“It is with deep sadness that the Art Film Foundation announces it has stopped showing films and that it will cease operations at the Art Theater on October 31, 2019.
We know that you, our members and audience, are amazing. We have made so many memories together: we’ve laughed, screamed, and cried tears of joy and sadness. We’ve shared in groundbreaking films and unique experiences, from Casablanca to Rocky Horror. When we hit rough patches in the past, you stepped up and helped us with emergency fundraising. Emergency funds help with discrete, one-time needs, and the Art Theater has remained in operation because of your passionate support and the tireless work of our wonderful staff. Unfortunately, the film industry is changing and we will face systemic challenges that show no signs of abating.
We thank you for your donations, your volunteer hours, your memberships, and your attendance. While the Art Film Foundation and the Art Theater have come to an end, we truly believe that this incredible community of cinema-lovers in the local area will carry on.”
The theater has canceled all scheduled private events, including a wedding ceremony and film festivals, happening after Oct. 31.
The theater opened as the Park Theatre in 1913. It became known as the Art Theater in 1958. For about 15 years in the 1970s and early 80s, it showed “adult” films, but went back to art films in the late 80s.
Most recently, a co-operative comprising 1,400+ members of the C-U community formed the Art Theater Co-op and funded the transition to digital projection. In 2017 the cooperative owners of the Art voted to merge with The Art Film Foundation (AFF), a local non-profit dedicated to promoting culture and education through cinema.