Art House Party

Moviegoers wanting to see the latest summer blockbuster will have no trouble finding a giant local multiplex offering dozens of Hollywood hits — they're liberally scattered across the Valley. But for those who seek out independent, foreign and classic films — cinema that doesn't have to be obscure — options are few and far between in these parts. We may not be completely deprived, but we're definitely "underserved."

That's how Tom Gruenberg euphemistically puts it. As CEO of Madstone Theaters, a national theater chain that specializes in such films, it's Gruenberg's job to deliver the goods to cinema-starved urban audiences. With a new six-screen venue opening in Chandler, Gruenberg seems confident that local audiences will make Madstone a point of destination.

Dave Anderson, also of Madstone, explains why the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the U.S. needs more underground movies and foreign flicks. "Phoenix has a really vibrant cultural community," he says. "You have people moving here from all over the country, coming from cities that are used to a lot of diverse types of events and films. In a lot of ways, they may not have what they're used to having."

If movie schedules at Madstone's five other locations are any indication, expect to see everything from new releases like Full Frontal and Tadpole to foreign sensations such as Antanarjuat, the Inuit film that's been making waves, and the acclaimed Hollywood musical Indara on Sunday. Breakfast at Tiffany's rounds out the roster.

"We really want to bring the community to the theater. We want this theater to be their theater," says Gruenberg. To that end, movies won't be the only reason to visit. Upcoming events include "Delicious Cinema," in which Madstone will partner with a local restaurant to match a featured movie with food that fits the theme, and "My Favorite Movie," wherein guest celebrities introduce a screening by chatting about why they love that particular film. In addition, the theater has a membership program that offers discounts, private screenings, special events and concierge services.

If all of this sounds a bit different than the average theater, Anderson emphasizes that it truly is. Biscotti, espresso, fine chocolates and — gasp! — healthy food make tasty additions to the traditional snack bar menu. Beer and wine certainly add to the moviegoing experience. Even the decor, something most people try to ignore in theaters, will be stylish enough to encourage lingering.

"You know the way your favorite indie bookstore feels?" Anderson adds. "That's what we want the theater to feel like."

Madstone Theater presents Free Movie Weekend from Friday, August 23, to Sunday, August 25. Selections include Boys Don't Cry, Raising Arizona, American Beauty, Citizen Kane, Amelie and Pulp Fiction. For free passes, log on to or visit the theater. Madstone Theater opens for regular screenings on Friday, August 30. Located at Ray and Kyrene roads in Chandler. Call 480-785-SHOW (7459).

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Michele Laudig
Contact: Michele Laudig