A spirited, ambitious female entrepreneur successfully makes her mark in the food and cinema industry. By 2013, Jami Wade finally had all the makings to create the perfect script to this plot.
As the story’s protagonist, she had already built an increasingly popular eatery in downtown Jefferson City, Capitol City CORK and Provisions. Wade had previously worked at the Columbia independent arthouse theater, Ragtag Cinema, understanding its imaginative atmosphere and gaining friendship and future support for her own cinematic endeavor from the venue’s owners, David Wilson and Paul Sturtz.
With “producers” in tow, her story’s set unveiled itself when the locally loved Chez Monet bakery moved out of the building next door to CORK four years ago. Wade’s husband and his crew of construction workers remodeled the more than 100-year-old building to a classy, artsy venue: Jefferson City’s first independent arthouse theater, Capitol City Cinema.
Even before screening its first documentary, “Particle Fever,” the cinema began to gain momentum. Continuing to serve as the cinema’s executive director, Wade assembled a talented cast of characters — its board of directors — to carry out the venue as a nonprofit and its mission to promote art and education through film.
Since its opening, the theater has filled up its playbill, showing independent film programming every week, holding special events, private screenings, Q&A sessions and meet and greets with filmmakers, actors and directors, and hosting community and children’s programs and festivals to build on its vision.
Capitol City Cinema has now entered a new chapter of its story, recently launching a fundraising campaign to purchase digital technology that will allow them to show a much larger catalogue of new films.
No finale is in sight to Wade’s Capitol City Cinema story, but every time someone enters the theater to watch an independent film, interact with local filmmakers, or engage in a special event, it makes for a happy ending for everyone involved.
Having a cinema companion next door to CORK was a manageable prospect for Wade. Wade used the
same determination and hard work she put into CORK, which opened April 4, 2011.
“We stripped the building, raised a sagging floor, refinished the hardwoods, built out a box office and restored the original tin tile ceiling. It was a pretty simple remodel but the results were impactful,” she said, noting she paid for most of it out of her savings. “It was exciting to see the project to fruition and to finally open the doors, pop the corn and sell the tickets. But I’ll be honest; it was a slow build. We didn’t fill the cinema until a couple of weeks after we opened and that happened when (Wilson) came to town to screen his 2012 documentary, ‘We Always Lie to Strangers.’ That was an exciting night.”
Capitol City Cinema enjoys showing some of the latest independent documentaries, comedies and dramas for audiences. To do this, Capitol City Cinema has employed a programmer, Sturtz, who picks out which films would be best to screen in their market.
“We also have a programming director on our board, Andrea Sporcic, who works with the Missouri Film Office (Commission). She helps us with those who supply the films and the vendors. For example, the bigger films like ‘The Big Lebowski’ (which screened in July), we have to get rights for and Andrea helps get that for us,” said Kyle Loethen, board president for Capitol City Cinema.
“We have a lot of really useful people on the board that are doing different things in the community to bring a lot of resources to the cinema,” added board secretary Cara Alexander.
The first couple of years the cinema was open, regular programming ran Tuesday through Sunday. However, the schedule began to hinder the organization’s desire to host special events, screen popular movie flashbacks and continue its children’s programming, according to Alexander.
“We moved to Thursday through Sunday schedules (of regular film programming) to also accommodate some of the sponsorships we wanted to make happen,” she said.
Outside of showing unique movies that draw in visitors from as far as Kansas City and St. Louis, such as “Boyhood” and “Chasing Trane,” they also support local actors, directors, producers, writers and subjects of films, such as award-winning Jefferson City native Vera (Neuenswander) Schmitz. “Vera’s Vault” focuses on her journey to qualify for the 2016 Olympics trials. Schmitz, her family and filmmakers Megan Cody and Lauren Vitiello visited with guests during a meet and greet in July.
“We have been lucky because there are local filmmakers that go out to L.A. to do premieres, but a lot of their friends and families can’t attend. So those producers, directors, writers, actors – whoever it is – will schedule a showing here so they can attend,” Loethen said.
Wade said it’s also really exciting and encouraging when a film generates excitement from the community. “Love and Mercy,” which was about The Beach Boys, sold out multiple showings, and the town’s buzzing for two screenings of Judd Apatow’s “The Avett Brothers” documentary on Sept. 12, which is showing at a only few other cinemas in the state.
“We are also curating our very first ever annual film series in September … a jazz documentary film series (Sound of Surprise), in which I get to collaborate with a former colleague from Hickman High School. (It’s) such a joy for me,” Wade said.
The community’s enthusiasm is what encourages the board and Wade to push the cinema to new heights. They have received grants from the Cultural Arts Commission for its children’s sing-a-longs and special programming, they are entertaining a film club monthly activity and have held their first, successful outdoor free community film screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” on Aug. 26 at Riverside Park with music and food.
That same day, Capitol City Cinema officially launched its fundraising campaign to go completely digital.
It has used Blu-Ray projection technology to screen its films. The movement to digital projection will open many new possibilities at the local cinema.
“Our campaign for a digital projector will help us be able to get newer films because of a lot of films now are only available in digital; we have used Blu-Ray or DVD,” Loethen said.
Sturtz is the one who stressed getting digital projection would attract more people.
“Instead of driving to Columbia, St. Louis and Kansas City, our community can enjoy those films in historic downtown Jefferson City in our comfortable and quaint single screen cinema. … It will also likely change our screenings as we add additional days and show times to our programmed calendar,” Wade said.
The board estimates it will take about $10,000 to purchase the digital projection technology from Proludio. The board also set up a GoFundMe site specifically for the digital fundraising campaign, with tiered sponsorships available offering rewards such as free concessions and tickets to Capitol City Cinema.
“We are also going to get more business sponsors because right now we have pre-roll for the movies. The pre-roll is for 30-second spots for the business, and becoming a corporate sponsor for the cinema allows them advertising for commercials,” Alexander said. “When we go digital, it will be a much easier process than using DVDs.”
Loethen and Alexander hope to raise the funds and acquire the digital technology equipment by the holiday season, kicking off the new year with the system and slew of new movies.
While the campaign will directly fund the digital equipment, funding for the theater’s regular programming will come from its $50 memberships, other sponsorships, weekly screenings, private events and special activities.
The hard work of the volunteer board, Wade and other loyal supporters and sponsors is what keeps the cinema going strong. To them, its story has only just started.
“I love when people come from all over the state to see a film with us because we are the only indie theater in the state showing it,” Wade said. “I’m also so happy when people get excited about the films we bring and the gratitude that we have something like this in Jefferson City. I’ve always said the cinema is a gift to Jefferson City. No one makes a dime off of it and a whole lot of people have put in an enormous amount of time and energy to make it work. It’s fun to see it working.”
To find out more about the cinema’s campaign, visit GoFundMe.com/capitolcitycinema. To volunteer, plan a private event or for more information, visit CapitolCityCinema.org or visit the Facebook page here.
Make plans to attend an independent film, documentary, or classic movie Throwback during September/October at Capitol City Cinema. Check CapitolCityCinema.org for schedule updates.
• “I Called Him Morgan” (documentary, part of Sound of Surprise Fall Jazz Series): 7 p.m. Sept. 13 **
• “The Trip to Spain” (drama): 7 p.m. on Sept. 15-16 and 3 p.m. on Sept. 17
• “Death by Delivery” (documentary): 7 p.m. on Sept. 18
• “Bayou Maharajah” (documentary, part of Sound of Surprise Fall Jazz Series): 7 p.m. on Sept. 20 **
• “The Last Dalai Lama” (documentary): 7 p.m. on Sept. 21
• “Whose Streets?” (documentary): 7 p.m. on Sept. 22-23 and Sept. 29-30, and 3 p.m. on Sept. 24 and Oct. 1
• “Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer” (documentary, part of Sound of Surprise Fall Jazz Series): 7 p.m. on Sept. 27 **
** Free the Jordans freestyle jazz duo will perform outside prior to the show (weather permitting)
• “I Do … Until I Don’t” (comedy): 7 p.m. Oct. 6-7 and Oct. 13-14, and 3 p.m. Oct. 8 and Oct. 15
• “Rebel in the Rye”: 7 p.m. on Oct. 20-21 and Oct. 28-29, 3 p.m. on Oct. 22 and 1 p.m. on Oct. 29
• “Hocus Pocus: In the park, after dark” (comedy/family): 7 p.m. on Oct. 21 at Riverside Park Amphitheatre
• Council for Drug Free Youth Annual Video Contest: 6-8 p.m. on Oct. 26
• Halloween Drag Show: 5 p.m. on Oct. 29.