Keif Henley, owner of Guild Cinema, is an “old school” kind of guy—a aficionado of classic art house films and a wearer of faded T-shirts of obscure bands few people remember. Perhaps that’s why his business has clung to its historical roots for so long. The movie-loving Mr. Henley started working at the Guild back in 1997 as a projectionist. He took over as owner of the theater in 2004 and continues to project films, sell concessions and pay bills alongside business partner Don Sherry and a very small staff of dedicated cinephiles.
Built in 1966 in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill neighborhood, the Guild Cinema has gone through a number of iterations (as an “adult movie” house, a revival theatre and an art house venue). These days the intimate, 120-seat theater has grown into what the current staff calls “a gathering place for the exchange of ideas and culture through independent, international and alternative film.” Having lost such Nob Hill compatriots as Don Pancho’s Art Theatre (in the late ’80s) and the Lobo Theater (in 2000), it remains the last independent, locally owned, single-screen theater in Albuquerque. Over the past 52 years, however, a lot has changed within the film industry.
We no longer have, for example, a film industry. Movies these days are shot on digital cameras and recorded onto computer memory cards rather than old-fashioned celluloid. Film editors are more likely to use iMovie than the mechanical Moviolas of yesteryear. And cinemas no longer mount large 35mm film reels to projectors in order to screen movies. In the last 10 years or so, there has been a massive revolution in the art of filmmaking. Guild Cinema is the last cinema in Albuquerque, in fact, to employ a 35mm film projector. But film distributors rarely, if ever, send out 35mm prints. The few older films that remain in movie studio vaults on 35mm rarely see the light of day. They are the last remnants of a physical media world and are now being carefully archived and protected by the studios that made them.
Several years ago, Henley added a digital projector to the Guild’s arsenal. But the trend now is for full DCP. DCP stands for “digital cinema package.” It’s a catchall term for “a collection of digital files used to store and convey digital cinema audio, images and data streams.” In simple terms, movie theaters now utilize DCP as a way to supply content to their digital projectors. It consists of a series of computer servers to which digital media can be electronically downloaded. They aren’t all that different from the hard drives on your home computer. But they are proprietary, allowing studios to include all sorts of digital encrypting and time-locking on movies to prevent piracy.
So Guild Cinema has a digital projector, but not the accompanying DCP servers—which can run upwards of $100,000. This prevents Guild from accessing a lot of content from today’s modern movie distributors. “We’ve been blocked out of several movies that we would have loved to have shown to [audiences] but couldn’t because we didn’t have the DCP system in place,” confirms Henley.
A new DCP system would give Guild the 21st century upgrade it needs and allow Albuquerque audiences access to a whole world of independent, art house and foreign films they’ve been shut out of these last few years. In order to get the new equipment, however, the Guild has to come up with a lot of money. As part of the Guild’s goal to raise $60,000 for new DCP equipment, the owners have done the usual, setting up a GoFundMe page soliciting donations. Several years ago, Guild replaced its carpeting and seating with a similar crowdfunding campaign.
Henley sums it up like this: “This is about getting funding from the wonderful community at large here so we can afford to get some rather pricey equipment that’ll allow us to show an even greater variety of movies you’ll wanna see at our cinema.”
This time around, though, Guild is supplementing it’s crowdsourcing campaign with several fundraising events, including a weekend-long “donation drive kickoff” featuring film, music, comedy and more. From Friday, May 10 through Sunday, May 12, Guild runs a marathon of classic films, cult favorites and live events. Weekly Alibi, which has been sponsoring Midnight Movie Madness screenings at Guild for nearly 15 years, is helping out with a special one-night-only screening of one of our most successful Midnight Movie runs. The cult sci-fi/horror musical Repo! The Genetic Opera is set in a dystopian future world where organ transplants and plastic surgery addiction have led to a particularly grisly career path in repossession. Anthony Stewart Head, Alexa PenaVega, Sarah Brightman, Paris Hilton, Bill Moseley and Nivek Ogre star. The film screens Friday, May 10 at 10:30pm and advance tickets are on sale now at eventbrite.com.
Other highlights of this weekend trip through Guild history include the romantic classic Casablanca, a screening of Hal Ashby’s counter culture favorite Harold and Maude and the Beatles’ first musical comedy, A Hard Day’s Night. On Saturday, there will also be the unveiling of a new painting by local artist Leo Neufeld, who spent more than a year capturing the Guild’s iconic facade and its smiling staff. Postcard reproductions of Neufeld’s artwork will be on sale at the theater after the unveiling—just another way local film fans can pitch in and help fund Guild Cinema’s future.
“This will up our game tremendously,” promises Henley, in regards to his theater’s technical upgrades. If the fundraising efforts come through as expected, he assures audiences that the venerable venue will be “providing an even wider amount of quality flicks, older movies, award-winning docs, new indie films, outstanding alternative cinema and the like that we’ve had the pleasure of showing over the last 20 years.”