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Reflections on 5 years of CineVerse

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Greetings, CineVerse faithful. Today marks quite a milestone for our film group--five years to the day that we started our fledgling little club for movie lovers. And what a wonderful and rewarding journey it's been.

I first came up with the idea of a weekly film society for the south suburbs in January, 2004. I initially pitched my conception to the Oak Lawn Library, who turned me down, citing lack of space and resources as their main reasons. Discouraged but still determined, I continued to shape and refine the goals of and direction for CineVerse over the next year-plus.

From the start, I knew I didn't want to settle for anything less than a weekly set schedule. I didn't have grandiose or overly lofty aspirations: My dream was to grow a sort of grassroots, underground organization of fellow film afficienados who enjoyed viewing then talking about movies--local folks who, like me, couldn't wait to share their thoughts about and reflect upon a picture immediately after watching it.

I knew that it would be a hard sell for most, this notion of film talk as therapy, of congregating and collectively dissecting a film socially. Add to that the challenge of keeping attendees interested in movies from across the spectrum of motion picture history, including silents, subtitled foreign flicks, black-and-white classics now old in the tooth, arthouse and independent features, and formulaic genre films.

Despite these hurdles, I always had faith that we could attract and retain a core following of dedicated members. And that we certainly have over these past 60 months. What started out as a meager experiment involving as few as three members a week watching a 22-inch television on a cart has blossomed into a vibrant community--currently numbering about 25 members--who regularly attend and contribute. And for that I owe you each a big note of gratitude and appreciation.

CineVerse truly is a labor of love for me that I find perpetually gratifying and enriching. More than the opportunity to unearth buried treasures of truth about a movie and bask in the celluloid brilliance of great filmmakers, the thing I've loved most about our group is the friendships I've made and the ability to hear and share different opinions. I've always believed that there is no movie experience that can match the communal power of viewing a film in a group. There's something infectious that happens when a crowd responds with laughter, gasps or claps. Comedies seem funnier. Thrillers feel more frightening. Action pictures appear more exciting. And big screen stinkers are even--deliciously--stinkier.

Some of my favorite memories from the past five years include:

  • The bigger-than-expected turnout for our very first meeting (seven people, for "Citizen Kane")
  • Our largest attendance ever when we repeated "Citizen Kane" on our one-year anniversary a year later (more than 20 people in a small classroom, some who had to stand in the back)
  • No room at the inn: the night we had to watch and discuss Hitchcock's "The Birds" in a preschool classroom surrounded by toys and small chairs/desks; quite a surreal experience.
  • Debuting our new projector system a la "2001: A Space Odyssey" in early 2006
  • Introducing Kids Night with "King Kong" a few weeks later
  • The time our projector system broke during a showing of "The Adventures of Robin Hood" and how perfectly content the members were watching this Technicolor classic on a 22-inch TV
  • Celebrating Christmas in July (2007) with a festive showing of "It's a Wonderful Life"
  • The April Fool's prank I pulled on our group in 2009, when I promoted selected clips of classic films but forced members to watch two of the worst movies of all time (yes, I can be a real sadist)
  • An evening last September--a week after worrying about a major dropoff in attendance experienced over several months--when at least nine new members (who are still with us) showed up for "Lone Star"
Thanks for all the great memories and for making our group so worthwhile. And here's to our next five years (always keep the faith!).

Yours sincerely,

Erik Martin

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