Tim Massett opened the doors of the single-screen Sun-Ray Cinema in December 2011 with a desire to bring films to Northeast Florida that wouldn’t otherwise be shown in this area. Though the theater has been quite popular with viewers who prefer an alternative to corporate multiplexes, Massett said owning a single-screen theater is not without its setbacks.
“Running a single-screen theater is obviously an anomaly,” he said. “It was a really good business model in 1930, when there weren’t as many films coming out.”
Another difficulty about just one screen for showings is that big studios impose the same restrictions on single-screen theaters as on multiplexes. If they decide to screen a Hollywood release, the "little guys" are forced to stick with that film for weeks, regardless of how well it's received. If they pull the film any sooner than the time allotted, they're likely to face repercussions from the distributor.
Massett was unsatisfied with the big studio offerings for April.
“We decided to take matters into our own hands, so to speak, and bring in things that wouldn’t see the light of day here at all for short runs,” Massett said. “These smaller films enable us also to double-book the screen, which is something that the studios won’t allow us to do.”
Massett is particularly enthusiastic about Sun-Ray’s “Alfred in April” series which features four Hitchcock classics, “Dial M for Murder,” “Psycho,” “Shadow of a Doubt” and “Vertigo.” A pass for all four films is $20.
“I’m really excited about the new ‘Dial M for Murder’ 3D DCP print that was just struck. Apparently, it hasn’t looked as good as it looked when it was projected in the ’50s, because they used the dual-stripped process that Polaroid developed, and it was a pretty complicated and cumbersome process,” Massett said. “It was a big pain in the ass and that process didn’t last very long.”
As if four Hitchcock films weren’t enough horror and suspense, there's a double-feature in the works, including “The Shining” on April 26.
“ ‘The Shining’ is, basically, a tie to Rodney Ascher’s new film, ‘Room 237,’ which explores different theories on the hidden meaning of ‘The Shining,’ so we thought it would be fun for people to be able to refresh their memories of ‘The Shining’ and watch that at 7 p.m., followed by ‘Room 237’ at 9:30 p.m.,” Massett said.
“The Shining” will screen one night only; the new movie, “Room 237,” is scheduled to run for a week.
For fans of Middle-earth, Sun-Ray is staging an event called “Gorge of the Rings” on April 13, an all-day “Lord of the Rings” marathon, with a seven-course menu of Hobbit-themed dishes, developed for the most part by Catering by Liz. Unlimited refills of Aragorn’s Athelas Tea and Merry’s Mulled Cider are featured. The full-day Gorge kicks off at 10:30 a.m.; the last film starts at 7:30 p.m. Passes are $80 for the feast and all three movies, or you can just see the films for $20, and choose from Sun-Ray’s usual menu.
At 4 p.m. April 21, Sun-Ray offers “A Place at the Table,” a documentary that investigates hunger experienced by millions of Americans, and proposes solutions to the problem.
“The proceeds from the film will be going to Second Harvest, and they will be providing some local context to food insecurity in the Jacksonville area. They will be providing a brief introduction about what they do here, and then a Q&A after the screening if people want to find out more on how that issue affects the community here,” Massett said.
A screening of the 2011 Oscar-winning film, “The Artist,” accompanied by a live score, is held 7 p.m. April 27 and 4 p.m. April 28.
“We’ve wanted to do a live score for ‘The Artist’ since we played that film last February, and this seemed like a good time to squeeze that in,” Massett said, “because we don’t have the studios looking over our shoulders like, ‘What are you doing, not playing our stuff all the time?’ ”
Local musician Jonah Pierre will play piano, supported by other musicians playing various instruments, in a stripped-down version of the original score.
Throughout April, Sun-Ray is also featuring the films “Upstream Color,” “Somebody Up There Likes Me” and Matteo Garrone’s “Reality,” as well as the documentaries “Bidder 70,” “5 Broken Cameras,” “Leviathan” and “Don’t Stop Believing: Everyman’s Journey.”
Massett said he has plans to absorb the empty retail space next door and open a second screen by June, to accommodate the growing Northeast Florida audience interested in quality films.