July 7, 2009

Local Theater Love #2: The Trylon microcinema

Welcome to your new Minneapolis home for repertory film programming...

It's a steamy late June afternoon as I slowly drive around the corner of E 33rd St. and Minnehaha Ave. in Southeast Minneapolis, trying to locate the new Trylon microcinema. I neglected to double check the address before I left, and as I aimlessly drive down an alley between Minnehaha and Snelling, the sun is blinding me, my back is sweating like crazy and my girlfriend is annoyed because I've called her at work asking her for navigation assistance.

Where is this place? I think back to when I had originally planned to come in February, when it was little more than a screening room hosted by Take-Up Productions and friends. Kathie Smith was going to show Chungking Express on Blu-Ray on a Tuesday night, and I couldn't wait to see it. Unfortunately, neither could a certain local film critic, thus sending the Strib my way seeking someone to attend the screening of Friday the 13th that same night. Conflicted, I accepted the assignment and missed out on Chungking. Thanks a lot, Colin...

Bam, there it is! A stark white sign on the back corner of a brick building: Trylon microcinema. I hurriedly hang up with my girlfriend, park on the street and, briefly distracted by a colorful mural lining the windowless building on the south side, find my way to the only door along 33rd St. Is this the right place?

Yes, in so many ways (and to be clear, it's really not that hard to find). With help from his friends and associates, Barry Kryshka has, in just over a year, wholly transformed the space in this building from empty retail/warehouse space to a.) a functional office for his own business, and b.) the newest and perhaps most intimate theater space in town. After three years of dutiful saving and hard work programming series and festivals around the Twin Cities, Take-Up Productions has secured its own space: the Trylon microcinema.

Featuring a 20' screen, two 35mm projectors, feels-like-you're-there sound, shockingly good digital capability, frosty air-conditioning and 60 real theater seats (plush, red velvet-upholstered, and graduated seats, to be specific), the Trylon is at first glance simply a smaller version of any cheeky theater at an AMC multiplex. But it has character (the seats, from an old theater in Waseca, were reupholstered by prison inmates in St. Cloud), intimacy, and maybe most importantly, freedom from corporate control.

While the space was still under construction when I visited, Take-Up had already hosted a couple of preview screenings and Barry was confident everything would be in place for the July 17th opening. The first row of seats (above) still needed to be installed instead of placeholder chairs, some lighting, painting, and soundproofing needed to be finished, and the matte around the screen had not yet been added. But there was no question that this was a legit theater, and one that had been constructed with the utmost regard for the cinematic experience. As an added bonus, Barry gave me a look at a few minutes of Blu-Ray projected on the screen, and the picture can only be described as eye-popping.

After spending a good chunk of the afternoon admiring and discussing the space with Barry, he was gracious enough to answer some additional questions via email as a kind of summary of our conversations. Before or after reading this I highly recommend you read up on Barry's discussion with Kathie Smith back in February about the process of programming repertory series at local theaters. Also, find more information on the July 17th opening further below, or on Take-Up's website.

Daniel: Take-Up Productions has established itself as a regular and well-respected fixture in the Twin Cities film scene over the last 2-3 years. Aside from the opening of the Trylon, what would you consider your biggest challenges and proudest achievements so far?

Barry Kryshka: The biggest hurdle/accomplishment was getting our first series on the screen at a local moviehouse. We spent a couple of summers bouncing around, showing films any way we could, usually outdoors, we showed The Hot Rock in a back alley behind a coffee shop, and Groundhog Day on the wall of the Soap Factory. So our first series at the Parkway was a big deal for me. We had 71 people for our opening night show: Stanley Kubrick's classic - The Killing, and we put in a ton of work at The Parkway to that stage. Since then just about every series has been bigger than the one before.

In terms of content, my favorite bill has to be the double feature of The Blue Dahlia and The Glass Key at the Heights last winter.

DG: What can people expect when they show up at the Trylon for the Buster Keaton series, "The Great Stone Face: Six from Buster Keaton", beginning July 17?

BK: I'm not even sure I know anymore, this project is taking on a life of its own. Dreamland Faces originally told me to plan for two people on accordion and musical saw...now it's 3-4 people playing each night, there's a piano involved, and I'm now hearing about "a very small drum set".

People should know that we're kind of like a speakeasy at this point. Our main entrance will be through the currently in-construction XYZ Gallery at 3258 Minnehaha. Just walk through the gallery and you'll find us at the back.

DG: Take us through the process you went through deciding on a name for your new space.

BK: I was looking for a name that would be unique, but with some cinema heritage. I considered "the Falls", because I'd heard about the Falls Theater on Minnehaha Ave, about six blocks from our space. The Falls was demolished in the 40's and replaced by Riverview.

But I don't really have a personal connection to that theater, and I eventually chose the name Trylon after the theater of the same name on Queens Blvd., where I grew up. The original Trylon was named for the 1939 World's Fair structure, and seated 600, including the balcony. I like the reference to the 30s, and the connection to a neighborhood moviehouse. The Trylon wasn't the biggest or most impressive in New York, but it was a neighborhood movie theater that served its community for 60 years.

DG: You've paid considerable attention so far to screening classic films in 35mm (and for the record, each of the ones I've seen has looked fantastic, most recently "To Catch at Thief" at the Riverview). How do you plan to balance the programming at the Trylon between 35mm and video formats (including Blu-Ray)?

BK: There's something about the look of 35mm film, and the sound of the projectors running, that reminds people they're out at a theater, having an experience you can't duplicate at home.

I'm extremely proud of our video image. It's a real 1920 x 1080 projector, the first in an independent Twin Cities movie theater, it has the same level of detail as the hundred thousand dollar 2K DLP projectors used by AMC's digital screens at the new Roseville theater.

I think the picture we project from Blu-Ray disc on our 20 foot screen is a match for 35mm film, but I never considered for a moment opening the Trylon without 35mm projection. The construction would have been so much easier, we could have had room for a bunch more seats, and a far lower electric bill, if we were digital only, but it wouldn't be a movie theater, not the way I think of them.

DG: It seems like the possibilities for series themes are endless. How you decide which genre, actor/actress, or time period to build a film series around?

BK: I talk to everyone I see at our shows, running ideas past everybody to see where there's interest. I also watch the calendars from the big repertory theaters in NY and LA, and I often go digging though my collection of Oak Street calendars for inspiration (does anyone out there have Summer 1998?). With the Trylon we're going to have much more flexibility in our programming. I can't wait.

DG: Considering the success you have had with series like "First, You Need a Crime...Six From Hitchcock", how do you see Take-Up balancing its programming between series and regular screenings at the Trylon, and series and retrospectives at bigger local theaters (The Heights, The Riverview, The Parkway)?

BK: We're going to start regular Friday/Saturday night screenings at the Trylon in September, with monthly themes. But we have no intention of slowing our pace with the Monday night shows. We've already confirmed a series in collaboration with the Heights this September.

DG: Do you foresee the Trylon ever moving toward more first-run or limited release films that don't get picked up by local theaters, or retaining a focus more on retrospectives/repertory programming?

BK: I'm going to keep Fri/Sat programming strictly repertory, but the Trylon will also run other films on occasion. For one example, we've started a partnership with Sound Unseen. They were looking for a venue to do monthly screenings in between their annual festival, so we'll have more screenings like last month's Bjork film, Voltaic.

DG: Describe the picture in your head of the Trylon microcinema five years from now.

BK: Five different films each week on one screen, that's the dream. I'm very satisfied with the Trylon technically. We were under a tight budget, working with the profits we had from 2 years of screenings, but we weren't forced to scrimp, and I think the quality of picture and sound at the Trylon is extraordinary.

What I want now, which is a much bigger task, is to slowly build the organization from four screenings a week to shows every night, and as many films each week as possible.

There may still be some tickets available for the Trylon's July 17th grand opening, but with only 60 seats in the house you'd be wise to get tickets ASAP. In addition the occasion of welcoming a new theater space to the Cities, I'm just as excited that the first series are these Buster Keaton films, accompanied live by Dreamland Faces as Barry describes above.

Also, know that Kathie Smith and I are reconvening the Film Goats at Town Talk Diner following the 7:00 PM shows on Friday night. Any and all are welcome to celebrate the Trylon's opening and pretentiously complain about the popularity of summer blockbusters like Transformers 2. Or openly admit to loving Transformers 2. There's room for that, too; we're goats, of course.

Below is a preview of the six films - also note that advance tickets are now on sale at Take-Up's brownpapertickets.com page.

The Great Stone Face: Six from Buster Keaton, beginning July 17

Sherlock Jr. (1924)
July 17 and 18 at 7pm and 9pm
Woody Allen's Purple Rose of Cairo is a delight, but Buster Keaton did it first. Projectionist Buster — dreaming he’s an ace detective — jumps right on to the movie screen, finding himself furiously edited from garden bench to city street to cliff — but finally becoming the ace detective of his wildest cinema fantasies.

Preceded by the short: The Electric House (1922) Buster designs a house with all the latest gadgets for a real estate tycoon who will buy thousands if the model home impresses him. But during the demonstration, everything that can go wrong, does - hilariously!

The Navigator (1924)
July 24 and 25 at 7pm and 9pm
Keaton’s top money-maker began with the biggest prop of his career: an ocean liner. Pampered playboy Buster is stranded on same with equally helpless airhead Kathryn McGuire. The ship finally runs aground on a desert island where the two unfortunates are chased by cannibals. One of Keaton's most revered films.

Preceded by the short film: The Ballonatic (1923) Buster rises to new heights as he sails heavenward in a balloon. He bumps into clouds, and in trying to bring down a duck, punctures the gas bag and crashes in the woods where he saves Phyllis Haver from a bear and falls in love. His courtship and the 'balloonatic' events that follow are hilarious!

Seven Chances (1925)
July 31 and August 1 at 7pm and 9pm
Buster gets word that if he can be married by 7 o'clock that evening, he will inherit $7,000,000. When his sweetheart refuses, he proposes to everyone in skirts, including a Scotsman! Hopeful still, he advertises for a bride and is horrified to discover 500 would-be brides hot on his trail in a hilarious chase to the finish!

Preceded by the short film: The Goat (1921) A mistaken-identity crisis precipitates an almost continuous - and continuously brilliant - chase through two adjoining towns where Buster is taken for 'Deadeye Dan, Public Enemy'.


  1. Quite a cinematic Mecca there Daniel! This isn't the first Minneapolis movie treasure you've treated at Getafilm, and it's further proof of that region's pre-eminence in that regard. Of course the Keaton festival is to die for in any big-screen presentation, but its great that its upcoming here. Great interview there with the proprietor, who has a pulse on his loyalist's tastes and desires.

  2. Thanks, Sam. From where I sit there are way more movie happenings here than even I can fit into my schedule (I don't know how you can handle it in NYC), but this is probably the one I'm most excited about for the long-term. And yeah, Barry does have a very good idea of what plays well here and what might not play well. He's not afraid to take risks, though, which is great since you don't always just want to see Casablanca and It's A Wonderful Life for the 10th or 20th time.

    I'm really curious as to how this live music is going to play with the Keaton films, none of which I've seen (I've only seen The General and clips of others). Should be a night to remember.


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