Since it opened, the SVA Theatre has been a hit with film lovers, filmmakers and industry insiders for its cutting-edge screening capabilities. The Tribeca Film Festival (currently in full swing through April 27) is a regular offering, and this spring’s lineup included the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences 2014 Oscar-nominated Short Films and premiere screenings for networks such as HBO and USA. A recent technical upgrade put the SVA Theatre ahead of New York’s first-run movie houses. 4K projectors? Check. 7.1 Meyer Cinema Sound? Check. Assisted listening devices? Check. SVA Close Up caught up with SVA Theatre Director Adam Natale, just ahead of his live interview with X Files and Californication star David Duchovny on Monday, April 28, for a virtual tour.
Some people may think the theater is just for SVA students, but you hold public events there year-round. What kinds of programs are there for everyone to see?
SVA Theatre serves as a great platform for all of the interesting, innovative, unique work that’s being created at SVA. To that end, there are regular screenings, lectures, conferences and a variety of other free or low-cost events that cover a wide range of artistic disciplines. The programming is eclectic, which speaks to the diversity of the College’s academic programs—there may be a film and animation festival one night and a lecture with a prominent designer the next. There are very few venues in the city that have such a vast amount of visual arts-focused events throughout the year that are free and open to the public.
Additionally, there are many events which are not run by SVA, but which remain open to the public. These include festivals like the New York International Children’s Film Festival and The New Yorker Festival, conferences like SpreeConf and Brand New Conference, and events run by organizations including PEN America, WNYC and Random House.
What were some of the highlights in 2013?
This past year was a very glamorous one at SVA Theatre. We played host to such celebrities as President Bill Clinton (speaking at Tribeca Film Festival), Beyoncé (hosting a premiere screening of her “Visual Album”), and Oprah Winfrey (for a special screening of Lee Daniels’ The Butler). Beyond that, we welcomed some new festivals to the space, including Russian Film Week and the hyper-local Chelsea Film Festival; worked on events with nonprofit organizations, including God’s Love We Deliver, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and Girl Scouts of America; bolstered our tech knowledge at events for Adobe, IBM, and Hewlett Packard; focused on community through town halls for The High Line and State Senator Brad Hoylman; and hosted the red-carpet premieres for Two Guns, Don Jon and Trance, among other films. And that doesn’t even include events led by SVA’s departments!
Some highlights from those include Q&A’s with actor David Strathairn, illustrator R.O. Blechman and a group of music video artists for the “SVA Rocks!” event; the first-ever global summit on curatorial practice; career development workshops with Pixar and Framestore; and the 24th Annual Dusty Film Festival.
What makes the theater so popular with film fans?
We are definitely not the regular sticky-floor movie theatre—we are, in fact, an arts center that prides itself on creating a home for its patrons. Not only are lovers of film contented with the plush seating and excellent picture and sound (due to our most recent equipment upgrade), but they also feel comfortable in the space—they know it well, attend often and tell their friends about it. They rely on SVA Theatre to have a variety of new, interesting programs that are available to them for little or no cost.
Additionally, most of our film programs are supplemented by Q&As or lectures that allow viewers to delve deeper into the cinematic work they just sampled. And, not only are we featuring the best of the best through festivals like
Tribeca Film Festival, but we are also allowing audiences to access new and innovative works by SVA students (aka future Oscar winners). To cite one example, the film Kush, which won many awards at the Dusty Film Festival, went on to win best short film at the Venice Film Festival. Those who saw it at the Dustys could state unequivocally that they saw the film first.
The theater regularly hosts Hollywood premieres and other red carpet events, like Beyonce’s surprise launch of her latest album. Do you even get star-struck anymore/was there anyone who made you feel that way?
Though I try not to name-drop, when my friends ask who I’ve met while working at SVA Theatre, the one name that garners the most attention is Oprah, by far. Though it was exciting to
meet her, I wasn’t necessarily star-struck. She was extremely down-to-earth and that relieves the anxiety a bit. (You might not believe this, but the majority of celebrities I’ve come into contact with are kind, friendly and just want to be treated like regular human beings.) When I met Oprah, though, I was standing between her and Lenny Kravitz, one of my favorite musicians and someone who just exudes cool. I couldn’t bring myself to say hello to him. Maybe it was the sunglasses.
What’s the best way for people to find out what’s happening at the theater?
Everyone should check out our brand-new website, svatheatre.com, which has an incredibly well designed calendar, compliments of Pat Tobin of the Visual Arts Press. We’re also pretty active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you’re part of the SVA community, don’t ignore those All Concerned emails—we’re always sending out info on free screenings. And SVA students should keep an eye on VASA’s Facebook page, as we’ll sometimes raffle off a pair of tickets to exclusive premiere screenings.