Downtown indie cinema welcomes younger audience

With a new marquee set to light up the front of FilmBar, patrons 18 and older will be able to view a list of the cinema's attractions from outside. (Evie Carpenter/DD)

FilmBar in downtown Phoenix is undergoing a lot of changes that will now offer younger patrons a genuine urban movie-going experience.

One of the more visual changes coming to the independent art house cinema and beer and wine bar located at 815 North Second Street is a lighted marquee showing what films are playing and a lighted sign outside on the building set to be completed within three to four weeks.

The theater also plans to reduce their stock of beer and wine to increase the amount of space behind the bar to prepare food.

The theater currently offers beer, wine, popcorn, and coffee, but the revamp will add a variety of food and concessions: paninis, gourmet hot dogs, candies and almonds. Many customers ask for sodas, said Kelly Aubey, the owner and founder of the theater, so fountain sodas with ice will soon be offered as well.

“I don’t think the experience now is a bad experience, but your choices are beer, wine, popcorn, coffee and a movie,” Aubey said. “Those are the four things you can buy and as a business you probably need to offer a wider variety of things so financially it makes sense.”

With the addition of concessions and reduction of alcohol, FilmBar will now open their doors to those 18 and older instead of 21 and older.

This change will expose a younger crowd to the independent, foreign, cult, classic, documentary, and repertory films that are offered at FilmBar, Aubey said.

Because FilmBar’s primary function is to show films, underage people are allowed as long as alcohol is not in the actual theater, according to Arizona liquor law R19-1-233. The theater’s website will denote 21-and-older show times, and only then will alcohol be allowed in the theater portion of the building.

“I think it’s important to have those sorts of movies accessible to younger audiences and they shouldn’t have to wait until they’re out of college to actually be exposed to things of their interest,” Aubey said.

Allowing those 18 and older into FilmBar will attract more students and a broader audience, Aubey said.

“It seems like just the kind of place that would be a great draw for our Downtown campus students,” said Christopher Callahan, Downtown campus vice provost and dean of the Walter Cronkite School. “These changes will certainly make it more attractive to all of our students.”

Pedro Osuna, a regular at FilmBar, said that lowering the age limit will allow downtown’s younger audience to connect with the world as a whole.

“Trying to unite communities internationally is the best way to describe FilmBar,” he said. “It’s opening the window for youngsters to get to know more about the educational information on our international leaders.”

Although some customers don’t have a problem with opening the doors to those 18 and older, others are not in favor of it.

“Any bar that was once a 21 and up venue which then turns to an 18 and up would piss anybody off, especially regulars like myself,” said 21-year-old Alexandra Dennis of Scottsdale. “It’s annoying because that atmosphere of an older crowd is no longer there, it’s not appealing anymore.”

FilmBar will also open their doors for midnight movies from Thursday to Saturday with tickets available for purchase online. Midnight movies are offered in most major cities, but expanding their hours makes FilmBar the only place downtown that offers them on a regular basis.

“Growing a regular midnight movie crowd, like any change one makes to a business, will take a little time to grow into something that has regular big crowds, but I’m confident we’ll get there,” Aubey said.

Many local bands and DJ’s have been a part of FilmBar’s growth as a nightlife hotspot, but FilmBar plans to reduce the number of live performances.

“I’ve been going to FilmBar since it opened last year, but I’ve never been there to see a film,” said Gareth Grenville, 29, of downtown Phoenix. “I’m glad that they’re going to be showing more films because maybe they’ll show more films I might enjoy.”

The live performances disturbed those who were seeing a film because they could hear the music and commotion from the crowd on the other side of the wall, Aubey said.

“I think it will be good for business because there won’t be a disrespectful crowd, there will be more respectful people essentially,” said Julia Dittl, a bartender at FilmBar.

When patrons call FilmBar there will also be a new dial system where they can press for hours, location and show times.

“Essentially, I am pushing FilmBar in the direction I always intended it to be,” Aubey said. “The heart of why I opened this place is to try to offer things that will get people thinking and to offer films that are thought-provoking.”

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Clarification: June 5, 2012

An earlier version of this article said no alcohol will be allowed in the theater portion of the building. FilmBar will be denoting on their website when there will be 21-and-older show times. There will be alcoholic drinks allowed inside the theater at those times.