Chattanooga’s first art house theater in the works

Scenic City Cinema is slated to officially open next year. (Screenshot: Staff)

The Alamo Drafthouse; Atlanta’s Midtown Art Cinema; and the Ciné in Athens, Ga.—these film houses are not mall multiplexes, and in their mission, they echo the grand tradition of Europe’s homes for art cinema.

And soon, Chattanooga will have a similar film haven of its own: Scenic City Cinema.

Chris Dortch of Mise En Scenesters and his business partner, Bryan Center, are in the process of scouting the perfect location for Chattanooga’s premier art house theater and pub.

“It’s a venue for the citizens of our fair city to have a chance to see all sorts of great cinema that they wouldn’t have had any place to see in this town before,” Dortch said. “It will also give us a chance to create a cultural hub where all different filmmaking groups and organizations in our city can have a home base.”

The business, which was formed with the help of the Push to Start program at Maucere Law Group, plans to be part indie movie theater, part hangout locale, part brick-and-mortar home of Mise En Scenesters and part incubator for filmmaking education.
Mise En Scenesters has operated as a nonprofit film club for almost two years and hosts regular film screenings, often paired with concerts, at Barking Legs Theater.

When considering the value Scenic City Cinema would add to the burgeoning film scene both in front of and behind the camera, Center and Dortch are straight to the point.

“In a word, options,” the pair said.

As an extension of, elaboration on and development from the film club, the theater will screen small, independent films; classic features; documentary films; horror and gore flicks with cultish followings; and long lost but beloved underground movies.

This year, Mise En Scenesters has brought the documentary ode to VHS tapes, “Rewind This”; the 1980s teens in trouble film, “Class of 1984”; “The ABCs of Death” in a partnership with Shock Theater; and retro horror “John Dies at the End” to Chattanooga for $5 an event.

Up next on the club’s roster is an exciting summer schedule of “Upstream Color,” “To the Wonder” and “Room 237.”

“I really love the film houses in Athens and Atlanta and felt like it was something Chattanooga was missing,” Center said.

The two film junkies met through a mutual friend who recognized their shared passion; and they bonded over a love of movies, pop culture and Center’s Kurt Russell tattoo.

Although the exact address for Scenic City Cinema is still up in the air, the rules for Chattanooga’s new audience etiquette are being finalized, including a strict no cellphone policy to ensure the perfect viewing experience is maintained.

The space will also possibly be home to the area’s standup comedy and community theater companies.

“Our hope is once we get our spot chosen, the timeline on getting build-out and restoration done will allow us to open the venue in 2014, not long after the first Chattanooga Film Festival,” Dortch said.

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