By Amy Wells
Editor's note: As reported on July 7, the Athena is now scheduled to open in time for fall quarter 2008.
The College of Fine Arts plans to maintain the Athena Cinema as a working theater with an art film focus when it takes over management and programming of the Court Street facility July 1.
The current management contract with University Cinemas, which has managed the theater since 2005, is set to expire at the end of June and will not be renewed, College of Fine Arts Dean Chuck McWeeny said. University Cinemas will close the theater at the end of this week, and the college plans to reopen it in early July.
"The College of Fine Arts is accepting management of the Athena for two reasons, both of which are consistent with our mission," McWeeny said. "First we want to provide outreach to the region through quality film experiences, and second, we want to program the theater's offerings to be consistent with our goal to weave the arts into the social and intellectual fabric of the institution."
Ruth Bradley, director of the Athens Center for Film and Video, will manage the theater. She also directs the Athens International Film + Video Festival, which is hosted at the Athena each May.
The change poses many opportunities for the university, including possible student internships in theater and arts management, Bradley said.
"We'll also be able to enhance the out-of-classroom experiences that inform the (university's) academic mission by tailoring programming to complement the mission," she said.
Bradley hopes more professors will take advantage of theater programming to enhance the curriculum. She gave the example of how the second showing of "Constantine's Sword," a film that investigates the roots of religion-inspired violence, sold out during this year's Film + Video Festival after she alerted faculty in the Department of Classics and World Religions that the movie was being shown.
"We're going to be able to better market (the theater) to both the community and student population," Bradley said. "I think we have a better understanding of the student constituency and can provide a more diverse program."
Ohio University purchased the local landmark in 2001 to ensure it would continue to serve as a theater and community resource. Following renovations, the 18,600-square-foot facility reopened in February 2002 to include one theater upstairs with about 230 seats and two theaters downstairs with about 165 seats each.
In 2007, undergraduate business students took on the task of assessing the theater operation, surveying students and community members. A committee of representatives from Facilities, Student Affairs, the College of Fine Arts and the College of Business also looked into best uses for the theater.
While staffing and other aspects of managing the theater are still to be determined, McWeeny's goals include running it as a profitable business.
University Cinemas, founded by local residents Emmett Conway and Rick Frame, also owns and manages the Athena Grand on East State Street. Frame indicated that all movies showing or scheduled will run at the Athena Grand, and current theater employees will be absorbed into the Athena Grand. Gift cards purchased at the Athena Cinema will be honored at the Athena Grand.
"Rick Frame has been a great partner with the college through his support of the Athens Film Festival and the Cinemateque series," McWeeny said.
Updated July 11, 2008, to include a link to information about the theater's revised opening schedule.