Popcorn, Junior Mints, and wicked good chardonnay: Which one would you not find in a movie theater? Answer: It depends on the venue.
If you're going to the Zinema 2, the new arthouse cinema in downtown Duluth, you can have all three.
If you're anything like Tim Massett, the Zinema's director, you'll have a beer, a choice that also graces the menu along with Third Street Bakery items, Fastachi Wasabi Peas and more.
The menu is just a small part of the many unique aspects the Zinema has to offer.
Massett, a self-taught programmer, first fell in love with the theater when he moved to San Francisco, Calif., to go to college. He was inspired by fellow filmmaker and programmer Craig Baldwin, who was running a film series at that time.
Massett said it was so eye-opening that he started doing research on what it would take to open a theater. Laughing to himself he confessed, "Yeah, I have just haphazardly pursued it ever since&the art of exhibition."
After San Francisco, Massett moved to Austin, Texas, where he helped put together a theater called the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. After three years, he moved back to his native Jacksonville, Fla., to take care of his father. Back home, he ran a single-screen theater and worked as a programmer for the Jacksonville Film Festival.
Now, Massett, who moved to Duluth last September, spends between 12 to 15 hours a day at the Zinema. Although he's exhausted and hasn't been home to see his wife in about eight weeks, he presses on.
"For now I like the challenge of putting together an arthouse cinema, which is a model that doesn't really exist anymore," Massett said. "You'll find, maybe, in New York there are arthouses, but they are all non-profits and struggling to survive. You don't see movie theaters programming this kind of content solely because it really isn't viable elsewhere."
Although Massett is optimistic about the success of the Zinema, he knows it won't come without its fair share of challenges.
One trouble that he has run into is the loyalty of the distributors.
"The distributors don't necessarily want to play at a theater that has no proven track record and because they don't want to ruffle the feathers of their relationship with Marcus [Theaters]," Massett said.
The Duluth region is a small market and Marcus Theaters has a majority of the buying power. The Zinema 2 is in the competitive zone with Duluth 10, located in Canal Park.
When Massett tried to acquire Michael Moore's newest film "Capitalism: A Love Story," the film was relegated out to Lakes 10. Massett contacted the distributor in hopes that they would send another copy to the Zinema since it would not technically be competing with Lakes 10.
Even after offering to pay the printing costs up front, which is rarely done, the distributor wouldn't budge. Massett was really disappointed.
"It's tough because without films that do have some marketing dollars, it's going to be hard to get people in the door," Massett said.
Another challenge that Massett faces is getting the community interested.
Unlike mainstream cinemas like the Marcus theaters that show big budget films, arthouse theaters can't rely on TV trailers to reel their audience in, instead needing to develop a community and culture.
"I get the feeling like a lot of people in the community have this idea that it's not really for them," Massett said. "We're kind of marginalized to a certain extent because people have this attitude that the films might be too difficult for them, but these films are just like any other films. They're not necessarily any more sophisticated in narrative story-telling then say, the new Bruce Willis film or whatever. There are difficult titles as well; I'm not saying there isn't. But the majority of the films we're playing are very accessible."
One demographic that Massett is particularly interested in capturing is the university crowd.
"I think the youth is really what's going to make or break us," Massett said. He hopes that midnight screenings will appeal to the younger audience, and so far, those showings have done well.
Although there hasn't been an overwhelming response to the Zinema, community members have responded with excitement.
"I could not be more thrilled," said Nathan Carroll, an assistant professor at the College of St. Scholastica who teaches film courses. "I think it's wonderful that a place like this exists in Duluth, showing films that would otherwise never be available to see in the Twin Ports beyond owning a Netflix account. The addition of the Zinema 2 hopefully represents a very positive addition to the artistic culture of the community."
And audiences have agreed. Tiffany Johnson, a recent Zinema 2 attendee, said, "It's very cool. I really like the huge murals and the lounge area. When I went there for the first time it was like, 'Toto, we're not in Duluth anymore.'"
The success of the Zinema depends greatly on the Twin Ports community. If the Zinema does well, the community will be in for a treat.
Massett hopes to program the first Scandinavian film festival in Duluth, although it's still in the planning stages.
"This," Massett said, "could put Duluth on the map&in a very weird way."