As financial woes threaten Oak Street Cinema, film lover Al Milgrom
reflects on its heritage - and the future
As the embattled Oak Street Cinema faces financial insecurity, Milgrom
is left to reflect on its rich past and uncertain future.
of the Minnesota Film Arts lines his
office with file cabinets containing thousands of films in alphabetical order.
"We're just trying to get back on track here," Milgrom
said, sitting in his
office cluttered with film history."It's lost a lot of money." As the organization's festival program director, he is supposed to spend his time planning events like the annual International Film Festival.
But with the recent departure of several staffers, he
instead finds himself brainstorming ways to energize a tradition begun in part by his
efforts four decades ago. Milgrom
, 83, opens a few drawers of the half-dozen green metal filing cabinets that line the room.The cabinets contain some 5,000 titles - every film ever shown at the Bell Auditorium
, the Oak Street's sister theater under the Minnesota Film Arts umbrella.
In each drawer and each phrase, Milgrom
is steeped in film lore and can trace the Oak Street Cinema back to the days before it held that name. Milgrom
is inextricably linked to the theater's past.It was he who founded the University Film Society in 1962 as an idealistic graduate student.
...Milgrom was an international journalist before foraying into film, and his travels led to an appreciation of foreign film.
Other journalists were interested too, "so we formed this society to fill the gaps," he
part of an earlier generation that experienced the theater and wonders what is happening to a once grand medium.
"There's something to be said about the theatrical experience, about what cinema means as an experience," he
said."Where's this new generation going?
agreed with the patrons, but worried aloud that much of the moviegoing public doesn't see it that way.
"When shove comes to push, people have to come in and see the movies," he
said."It's not that I'm trying to beat up on the audience - they're just missing an enriching experience." Milgrom
and the dwindling staff at Minnesota Film Arts are now trying to rebuild that following at the Oak Street, he
hopes a promotion grid of showtimes will help.He
finished drafting the copy Friday afternoon - not on the Apple computer
that sits idly on his
desk, but on the 30-year-old typewriter he
still uses, even for a simple office task like this one.