The Fine Arts Theatre responds

The Fine Arts Theatre, in its current incarnation, was opened as a first-run art- and independent-film theater in 1996 by John Cram as an extension of his decades-long venture in the arts in Asheville. He opened the fine art gallery Blue Spiral 1 next door in 1991, and saw opportunity in the old theater to bring quality art films to Asheville while helping to revitalize a depressed downtown.

Built in 1946, the theater opened in 1947 as The Strand, a mainstream, first-run movie house of the day. During the 1960s and ’70s the theater transformed — typical for the era — into a “Grindhouse,” becoming an XXX theater in the early ’70s. The theater shuttered in 1986, mostly due to the advent of VHS tapes.

We take very seriously the history of the theater and its many lives. In 2001, we restored the “colored entrance” box office window where nonwhites had to purchase tickets and sit only in the balcony. The restored “segregation window” is now used by groups, such as The Center for Diversity Education at UNCA, to educate students and others about the history of racism in Asheville.

The Fine Arts Theatre is the only locally owned, first-run movie house in Asheville, and the only theater in the region that regularly hosts fundraisers for organizations like Our VOICE, the Rape Crisis Center of Asheville and Buncombe County, and many other groups over the years (too numerous to list here). We have featured films that tackle tough subjects like military sexual trauma (The Invisible War); rape (The Greatest Silence); and yes, even pornography (Inside Deep Throat).

The Fine Arts Theatre is also the home of QFest, Asheville’s LGBT film festival. Qfest brings films and filmmakers to Asheville that spotlight the struggles and discrimination that++++ those in the LGBT community often face. Another featured festival is the Asheville Jewish Film Festival, often featuring many films dealing with those pesky “isms.”

The historical slides are not intended to make light of the theater’s history, nor to glorify pornography or sexism. Rather, they serve as a reminder of how far we have come as a community. We are proactively anti “ism,” and the writer may have understood this and other facts better by simply asking why the slide was there instead of making assumptions about the owner and management that are simply not true.

— Neal Reed
Fine Arts Theatre

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8 thoughts on “The Fine Arts Theatre responds

  1. Chris W

    Excellent response. Thank you for being such an important and unique part of our community. I am especially grateful for your support of the LGBT community.

  2. NFB

    Thanks to the Fine Arts for this articulate response, for the support it gives to the community and for bringing so many movies to town that would otherwise be difficult to see.

  3. Anya

    I was interested to read this response to Lisa Garrett’s letter of concern. While I respect the enumerated social community work the Theatre has done in this “current incarnation” — LGBT and Jewish film festivals, fund-raisers for hard-pressed nonprofits, etc. — I felt the response also essentially ducked the concern of the original letter, which was quite clear. It is ludicrous to suggest that flashing a momentary image of pornographic film titles once shown at the Theater is in any way a comment on the “evolution” that the Theater has gone through. Without providing any context or references for the changes that have taken place, how could the average movie-goer, largely unschooled in the particulars of the Theatre’s history, be expected to see those titles and assume they were somehow a disavowed part of a larger whole? What using that slide does, and continues to do, is to affirm pornography as a legitimate, dare I say embraced, piece of the Theater’s history. If the management truly wanted to delve into the “how far we’ve come” stories of leaving behind a tradition of misogyny and racism, it could put together any number of media to that effect, with an explicit focus on what’s been discarded and how. The social consciousness upon which Neal Reed expounds in his letter certainly represents a large step forward from racially segregated entrances of other eras. And, the promotional use of the still remains offensive and emblematic of the casualness with which pornography is approached in both the mainstream and “fine arts” media realms.

  4. Orbit DVD

    Neal, I don’t think that deserved a response, esp. one so well stated.

  5. B Lineback

    I do not know anything about a slide and have not viewed the contents, etc referred to. But I grew up in Asheville in the 60s and 70s and did not leave until the late eighties. As an artist, I am amazed how the entire street is now a “Renaissance”; growing up we were told by our parents not to even look in that direction when we drove by to see a movie at the Plaza Theater!! The whole street was seedy. Now the architecture and art deco simplicity of the theater building, and the cultural significance to Asheville is such a rare gem for all of us who grew up there. It is part of our history, our culture and our home town. Great for all who had a part in restoring and saving this theater!! Thank God we did not lose it the was we lost the Imperial Theater. Anyone who grew up in Asheville and loves the history and culture of the area can appreciate the contribution that has been made here. Focusing on a negative part of history is not what this theater is about; history is there and juxtaposing that against the here and now,and the positive rebirth of Asheville is something I and many others truly appreciate.

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