With the economy forcing people to choose how best to spend their entertainment bucks, Portland movie businesses have to play hardball with each other, right?

Not according to Jon Courtney.

The co-founder and screening programmer for the Portland arts and film hotspot Space Gallery (www.space538.org), Courtney has worked with those who would traditionally be considered competitors in the Maine indie film scene over the years. He has met with the owners of other small, independent screening venues like the Movies on Exchange Street (now Movies at the Museum) and the Frontier Cafe and Cinema in Brunswick.

He’s also connected with new players Tristan Gallagher, whose Fun Box Monster Emporium film series screens at Geno’s (www.myspace.com/genosrockclub), and the Apohadion (107 Hanover St., Portland), which recently screened Harmony Korine’s notorious “Trash Humpers,” in order to “make sure we were programming collaboratively rather than competitively.”

“Sure, there’s a sense of healthy competition; we’re proud of the films we can book,” says Courtney. But he looks at the independent local cinematic venues as “different branches of the same army,” explaining that together, they make up one single “patchwork arthouse theater in Portland for different niches.”

He says that while Geno’s and the Apohadion specialize in fringe “cult movies” (such as Geno’s Sept. 27 showing of the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” with an appearance by Gunnar “Leatherface” Hansen) and the Movies at the Museum usually features weekend screenings of more popular fictional and foreign films, Space gravitates more to one-off showings of what he calls “orphans” — smaller, often documentary films that haven’t screened anywhere else in Portland.

Courtney believes that Space, like all small theaters, has to compete not only with the economy but with “the small theater everyone has in their home.” To pry viewers out of their living rooms, theaters need to be unique in what they show, and provide nontraditional amenities, like Space’s perpetually open bar. (“A movie theater without beer is just a museum.”)

Courtney’s putting his money where his mouth is, collaboratively, with a series of screenings at Portland Museum of Art, co-sponsored by Space. From Sept. 24 to 26, look for a documentary about mysterious guerilla artist Banksy (“Exit Through the Gift Shop”), and in November, see an exhibition of Matthew Barney’s massive, utterly-bananas “Cremaster Cycle.”

So hop up off the couch, and let’s support Portland’s indie-film community. They’re working together to bring the weirdest and the best right to your neighborhood.


Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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