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FilmBar Announces Partnership with Andrea Beesley-Brown's The Royale

​A couple of the Valley's newest independent cinemas are about to become a bit more dependent on one another. Phoenix's FilmBar and Mesa's The Royale recently joined forces and are partnering up in a "strategic alliance."

Filmbar owner Kelly Aubey says a partnership with The Royale was a no-brainer, considering both cinemas have similar goals. 

"We're both in the game for the same reason: To help the independent film scene grow in the Valley," he says. "So why not form some sort of partnership and help each other out? It seemed like a natural fit."

In addition to cross-promoting flicks and events, the partnership will also bring programming changes at FilmBar. Andrea Beesley-Brown, owner of The Royale, says she'll will begin working with Aubey in selecting films to be screened at the lounge-like downtown Phoenix theater. 

​Beesley-Brown says Aubey "wanted a new perspective on the programming." FilmBar will show more art-house pictures, foreign flicks, limited release features, and independent titles "with well-known actors that aren't necessarily blockbusters," including Steve Coogan's recent Britcom flick The Trip or the Helen Mirren indie thriller Brighton Rock

"The kinda stuff that you wouldn't find at Camelview or the Valley Art, but stuff that's still of a more [of an] art house independent feature," she says.

​You won't be seeing the schlocky films like The Room or the style of offbeat and cult films that Beesely-Brown (who's known as the "Midnite Movie Mamacita") is known for booking. -- those will continue to be screened at her theatre.

"I definitely want to keep the genre and grindhouse stuff at The Royale because that's the audience I've cultivated," she says. "We'll then get more of the art house and foreign stuff at FilmBar because that's kinda Kelley's vision for the place. The cool thing about this is that we can refine both of our brands and then hopefully cater to everyone."

Ultimately, FilmBar and The Royale are burdened with the same struggle; they're independent repertory houses in relatively dull stretches of their respective downtown areas. Getting moviegoers out the cinema in the age of Netflix and Redbox is hard enough, Aubey says, getting them to visit an independent theatre is even tougher.

"It wouldn't make any sense for us to have any division between us," he says. "We both know the kind of work we have cut out for us as independent theatre owners. There are a lot of enthusiasts out there, but we want to reach out to more than just [them] for sure."

One genre of films you won't be seeing as much of at FilmBar in the future are documentaries, which were one of the hallmarks of the theatre's former programmer Steve Weiss. The local cineaste and film festival impresario (who's the brains behind the ongoing No Festival Required) was let go from the position last week.

Aubey says the decision to party company with Weiss was "a financial decision."

"He was [employed] on a contractual basis, and it was a month-to-month thing," he says. "There was an overlap in positions and he no longer fit into what we were trying to do with the business in partnering up with The Royale."

Aubey also says the change is due to a desire to a new direction for FilmBar.

​"I wanted to go in a different direction with regard to the business as a whole," he says. "This partnership with Andrea is important to me. She's always been careful not to program anything that stepped on our toes. So now that we've reached the point where we are gonna forge a partnership, there was no need for an extra programmer ... [Steve] did a really great job getting us to this point and his efforts are greatly appreciated."

Weiss, who programmed more than 50 films at FilmBar since it opened in February, stated that he was "surprised" when his contract wasn't renewed. He also noted in an e-mail to Jackalope Ranch that "about 80 percent" of requests from FilmBar patrons and Aubey were for documentaries. He adds that he tried to make the film lineup "evenly split between docs and narratives."

Aubey was amicable about the split, however, Weiss says.

"He was very complimentary, and always has been, as to what I did," he says.

Aubey says that FilmBar will continue to schedule documentaries in its lineup, only "they won't be as predominant."

"You're going to see more and more edgier stuff coming up," says Aubey. "That's a direction I've been pushing towards for awhile now. We've predominantly documentaries the first few months we've been open but as time's gone on I've pushed very hard for stuff that's engaging and dynamic ... I think it's important to balance the obscure with the known, not just from a cultural perspective but a business perspective."

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.