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At 15, Tacoma’s Grand Cinema is a community treasure

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on April 11, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
April 11, 2012 5:47 pm

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Back in 1997, some didn’t think Tacoma could support a theater showing independent and foreign films. The words “Tacoma” and “subtitles” didn’t seem to go together.

But 15 years later, any doubts have been put to rest – soundly. The Grand Cinema is going strong, still offering films that otherwise might require a trip to Seattle to see. It’s even expanded from three to four screens.

Today, the Grand has more than 3,500 members and annual revenue of more than $1 million. But what really makes the nonprofit work is its volunteers – the dedicated folks who sell tickets, staff the concession stand, clean the theaters, lead film discussions and serve on the board of directors that oversees the cinema’s operation.

Besides showing “little” movies – and ones that become so popular that the big chains start showing them, too – the Grand has become an important community arts resource. It sponsors the Tacoma Film Festival in October and the 72 Hour Film Competition in May. It partners with local organizations for special events – for instance, showing films that support themes in the Tacoma Art Museum’s current “Hide/Seek” exhibit. And starting Sunday, it will partner with Tacoma Community College for the Diversity Film Festival.

The Grand has had its share of challenges along the way in its 15 years, and another looms: next year’s film industry shift from 35 mm film to digital. That will require new equipment at a cost of $75,000 per screen. The Grand will seek grants and start a fundraising campaign later this year. No doubt its supporters again will come through.

The Grand is celebrating its anniversary through April 18 by – appropriately – giving back to the community that has supported it so strongly, with giveaways and special prices on tickets and concessions.

So here’s to the next 15 years of movie magic – and many more.

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