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Virtually Together ▶ (with video) 

Tin Pan Theater and BendFilm celebrate one year together—and in the age of coronavirus, they also celebrate getting new movies on the same day as L.A. or N.Y.C.

Roger Ebert was once quoted as saying that movies are like a machine that generates empathy. Lately, it seems like that's something in short supply, with patience reaching an all-time low.

Between the dearly departed Pilot Butte Six and the thriving Tin Pan Theater, I've spent five years working at art house movie theaters (and that's not counting the years spent at Westside and Hollywood Video). All told, 15 years of my life has been spent recommending, programming and talking about movies, but none of that time felt more important than my years behind the counter at Tin Pan Theater.

Marking one year of partnership between Tin Pan and BendFilm—but not exactly happening as planned. - COURTESY OF TIN PAN THEATER
  • courtesy of Tin Pan Theater
  • Marking one year of partnership between Tin Pan and BendFilm—but not exactly happening as planned.

Celebrating the one-year anniversary since being acquired by BendFilm and under the leadership of BendFilm's Executive Director Todd Looby and Head of Programming Erik Jambor, Tin Pan has boldly continued the mission of sharing and celebrating independent film.

Still closed due to COVID-19, Tin Pan has been creatively finding ways to keep going in that mission by virtually screening new indies and by curating conversations with local artists and actors over on Youtube.

VIDEO: Executive Director Todd Looby talks about the future of theaters (they're not going away) and the feeling of connection we'll have when we all get back to gether:

Even through the crisis and with its doors closed, Tin Pan has continued to stay busy. "Our online conversations via BendFilm:Makers are more popular than I ever would have imagined and the amount of great new films available for streaming on Virtual Tin Pan sites are incredible. This is not bringing in much revenue and may not for some time, but we are busy fundraising and applying for grants to ensure there is no gap in providing the important service we do," said Looby. "At a time when we need to be socially distant and protect the vulnerable and first responders, it is more important than ever to retain connection and community. Culture has always been the lynchpin for connection, and film is an especially powerful art form for informing and connecting and this crisis is making our importance more and more evident each day."

As the large chains are spending this time going to war with film studios and distributors, Tin Pan is occupying its time bringing people together.

"Tin Pan is opening new indies the same day they're first available in Los Angeles and New York," says Jambor. "You can see a film like 'The Painter and the Thief' (now playing) or 'Shirley' (opening on June 5) — or be a part of a live Q&A with the filmmakers of 'Blackfish' or 'Hail Satan' — the same day as anyone else across the country. No need to wait for months until the film has played all the bigger cities first. With the one screen at the Tin Pan, we're usually just showing one or two films on any given week — so it has been fun to be able to offer as many streaming titles as we want. I think we have a dozen films available now; it's a bit like a mini film festival with a mix of both documentary and narrative features."

  • courtesy of Tin Pan Theater

Looby and Jambor know (as I do) that this time closed won't kill the theatrical experience. "There is simply no way a great film can evoke the same feeling at home as it does in the theater, just as no virtual art form can replace live performance," says Looby. "We can survive and even thrive via online programs, and we can still create space for that emotional connection virtually, but we all know that we inherently crave in-person connection, as messy as it can be.

"It's just how human beings are hardwired. That space is the people in it, the spirit of the staff, the intent behind everything, the content on-screen, and the feeling it all evokes as much as the physical space itself. Because of that, we will be able to create a meaningful bridge from now until when the doors reopen and we then reassert the indispensable vitality of the art house theater–which I know people are missing terribly right now."

Looby, one of the most empathetic people I've ever known, puts the mission of Tin Pan (and cinema in general) perfectly: "We will continue to pursue both avenues to create the connection however we can—because the service we provide of creating conversation, spreading positivity, celebrating brave art and artists, spreading hope in uncertain times and especially asserting that just by being open, thoughtful and positive, that our audience is indeed the change we want to see in the world is an important one."

Visit for tickets to the virtual lineup.

About The Author

Jared Rasic

Film critic and author of food, arts and culture stories for the Source Weekly since 2010.
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