Two years ago, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society was what founder and executive director Richard Paradise calls a “gypsy organization.”
On summer evenings and winter afternoons, the society, whose membership was around 650 at the time, would gather at different locations around the Island to watch independent, foreign language and classic films selected by Mr. Paradise. For eight summers, the 16 millimeter projector at the Grange Hall displayed classic films on Thursday nights. Other nights, the Capawock Theatre or Katharine Cornell Theatre took turns welcoming the society, which had a strong mission, but no place to call its own.
Then with the help of people like architect and landlord Sam Dunn, Mr. Paradise found a suitable space for a theatre and began developing it into an upscale “mini performing arts center.” At the bend in the L-shaped strip of stores in the Tisbury Marketplace, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center now stands with its doors open seven days a week in the summer and five days a week in the winter. Comfortable, clean, climate-controlled, and filled with the kind of technology that ranges in function from projecting live cable TV to allowing Skype interviews with filmmakers, the film center has become a haven for many forms of art over the past two years.
“Our first and foremost love is film, but we do see the benefit of being available to the community to do these other types of activities and other types of performances,” said Mr. Paradise.
The film society now shows over 150 movies a year and hosts close to 50 unique programs and performances, in addition to its two annual festivals, the Film and Music Festival and the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, which begins Tuesday, Sept. 2.
Membership has tripled since the center opened, and revenue, which was approximately $100,000 four years ago, has since risen to $600,000.
“I couldn’t ask for a better situation at this point in time,” said Mr. Paradise.
Though winter is a quieter season, the film center still plays an active role in the Island’s arts culture.
“People say to me all the time that this place has changed their life on the Vineyard,” said Mr. Paradise. “It’s really gratifying to hear that.”
Among the offseason events is the annual Oscar party where the Oscars are broadcast live on the big screen. Mr. Paradise also opens the center’s doors on New Year’s Eve for a special film screening and live viewing of the ball dropping in Times Square. In addition, the film society is a member of the New York Film Critics Series, which enables the center to screen one premiere a month, followed by a pre-recorded filmmaker Q&A.
Though the film center is home to just one big screen, Mr. Paradise has many ideas in mind to expand its imprint from the inside out.
“We’re trying to do more educational stuff and expand the use of the facility by the community,” said Mr. Paradise. “Also outreach to the broader film world. Very few filmmakers live on the Island, so I would like to bring more people from off-Island here in the film industry.”
For a full schedule of movies and events, visit mvfilmsociety.com.