Duluth gets a new Zinema

Walk into the new Zinema 2 on downtown Duluth’s Superior and you can’t escape the huge mural splashed across the back wall, and stretching down into the basement. It’s the work of Rory Skagen and Blue Genie Art Industries of Austin Tx.

It’s just one of the little touches (or in the case of the mural big touches) brought in by Tim Massett, looking a little pensive at right.

He moved to Duluth a year ago to prepare and program Duluth’s brand spanking new art house cinemas which are now enjoying what Massett calls their ‘soft’ opening.

There are two theaters. One seats 98, the other 66. Massett says the idea actually came from the Zeppa Family Foundation’s Alan Zeppa.

The facility will also include a restaurant and a theater. Massett credits Zeppa with a vision to bring back some life to the rundown side of Superior Street

“And his interest in putting together some place where you can have something to great eat and also experience a good play, because there is a blackbox theater also on the first floor, or descend the staircase into the cinemas.”

Massett says people trying to revitalize an area often see a theater as an important element.

“You are bringing 100, 150 people there a couple of times a night on the weekends hopefully and there’s just more of a population circulating in the evening,” he says.

Putting on his programming hat Massett says the new theaters will fill an important niche in Duluth. Like many smaller cities, Duluth suffers from a lack of screens, and as a result many interesting independent films never get shown in town.

“I think if there were more screens at the multiplex maybe they would allow for smaller specialty films,” Massett says. “But the case is they have 10 screens and four of them will play the same movie.”

Massett will play a mixture of first run indies, with a sprinkling of film classics. He’s opening with Duncan Jones’ “Moon,” “The Hurt Locker” and the Bill Pohlad-produced “Food Inc.”

He will also feature the work of visiting film makers. For the official grand opening, likely in late October or early November, Massett’s bringing in animator Brent Green.

“He travels with a group of musicians and performs the voiceover live, the Foley work live and the music live,” Massett says.

A tour of the Zinema 2 doesn’t take long, but it’s impressive. Massett leads the way into the huge projection boxes that look more like locker rooms than the traditional cramped dank spaces tucked away at the back of the theater

“This is the biggest booth I’ve ever been in,” Massett says. “Usually they are closets.”

The booths are set up to play a host of different formats from regular theater prints, through archive material and video.

There is a concessions stand, complete with liquor license just outside the two theaters which sparkle with the crackling newness of their red and blue seating.

Massett who also runs “The Talkies” series in the Twin Cities says he’s confident the theaters will be a success, although he says he is going on instinct more than anything else. He’s been meeting with great enthusiasm as he talks to people in the community and some 600 people have signed up as fans on the Zinema’s Facebook page. However he admits he has no hard evidence as to the demand for the Zinema fare.

Yet with a facility like the Zinema 2 he is definitely off to a stellar start.

You can hear our conversation here:

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