Archive for June 10th, 2009

Filmmakers Cooperative new home

June 10, 2009

This is about a week overdue, but here’s a story from NY Times about the now resolved Filmmakers Coop situation.

Avant-Garde Film Group Gets New Home, Cheap

The Film-Makers’ Cooperative’s new home will include space designed to protect its archives.

Published: May 27, 2009

After months of uncertainty, the Film-Makers’ Cooperative, whose future was threatened early this year when it received an order of eviction from a city-owned building in TriBeCa, has found a new home, and on terms that are likely to make it the envy of other arts organizations and tenants across the city.

The group, which archives, distributes and restores  experimental and avant-garde movies, has signed a five-year lease with the real estate developer Charles S. Cohen that calls for the organization to pay a symbolic rent of $1 a year.

“It’s amazing,” said Jonas Mekas, a filmmaker and one of the cooperative’s founders, “and amazing that there are still people like Cohen in this world.”

The new quarters, which the group hopes to occupy by Labor Day, are at 475 Park Avenue South, on the northeast corner of 32nd Street. The sixth-floor site will offer nearly four times as much space as the co-op’s current location at the Clocktower Building, where it is paying about $1 a square foot for approximately 900 square feet.

“It’s a beautiful and more accessible space,” said M. M. Serra, the film group’s executive director. “We’ll have offices and archives, and our films, some of which are one of a kind, will be in air-conditioning specifically designed to protect them, which we don’t have where we are now.”

As part of the move, a 15-seat theater is also being built at the 32nd Street location, “for the use of scholars and others who want to do research” into the approximately 5,000 films that the cooperative has in its archives, in formats ranging from 8 millimeter to video, Mr. Mekas said. Tentatively, it is to be named the Charles Theater, a double homage, to Mr. Cohen and to the old Charles Theater in the East Village, one of the first places in New York to show experimental films.

Mr. Cohen, the president and chief executive of Cohen Brothers Realty, is known as a film aficionado. He is the author of a book of movie trivia, won a Kodak Movie Award for a comedy short he wrote and directed, and was an executive producer of “Frozen River,” the feature-length film starring Melissa Leo that was released last year and earned two Oscar nominations.

“I was in a position to help, and I thought that I should,” Mr. Cohen said. “They are a wonderful group doing important work, and there is no other place to go and see this kind of thing. They needed a storage space for their archives, and this meets their needs.”

Founded in 1962, the Film-Makers’ Cooperative has since the start of the decade occupied space controlled by the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, another bulwark of the city’s avant-garde artistic establishment. But late last year, P.S. 1 decided to give up the site and turn it over to Alanna Heiss, its founder and former executive director, so that she could use the location as a base for her latest project, an Internet radio station called Art International Radio.

Before that, the Film-Makers’ Cooperative operated for many years out of an office on Lexington Avenue at 31st Street, which it had to leave in 2000 because of redevelopment there. So returning to the same neighborhood on such favorable terms “in a way brings things full circle,” Mr. Mekas said.