On a gray spring morning, 701 S. Main sits dark and empty in a quiet section of Fort Worth’s Southside neighborhood. Up and down the block, streets are as still as a vacant movie lot, flanked on either side by historic buildings. A light mist leaves sidewalks damp, grass glistening.
“We want to build a pact with our audience,” Johnston states, gesturing to where canvas awnings and a lighted marquee will grace the white brick facade. He and McNutt have dreamed of opening an art house cinema for years, and now the finish line is in sight. We can’t imagine a more fitting pair of proprietors for Forth Worth’s first twin screen art house theater.
Well-known in the Metroplex as the founder of Spiral Diner (see our feature on the popular spot here), Amy McNutt has displayed a talent for making customers feel like treasured guests. Spiral started seven years ago as a small vegan lunch counter in Fort Worth’s Rail Market, and has expanded to two successful restaurants despite the recent economic downturn. Vegetarians, vegans and meat-eaters alike relish Spiral’s delicious food and friendly atmosphere.
Filmmaker James M. Johnston wears his devotion to his art on his sleeve. Well, in a Citizen Kane-inspired tattoo on his arm, anyway. (Not coincidentally, the name of the theater was also inspired by Orson Welles’ 1941 classic.) An accomplished producer and director, Johnston’s film “Carried Away” was recently screened at the 2010 Dallas International Film Festival. The couple has been married since 2003.
A self-proclaimed pair of “film nerds”, Johnston and McNutt (who holds a degree from The University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television) are set to open The Citizen in July of next year. Having just signed the lease on 701 S. Main, they will now proceed with installation of two 37-foot screens, some 325 seats and top-quality sound and projection equipment.
To fill those big, silver screens, The Citizen will show a program of first-run independent films and “repertory” picks.
McNutt explains, “A repertory film can be anything that’s not currently in theaters.” From classic silent movies to Quentin Tarantino double features, The Citizen’s playlist will be eclectic and unique. Keeping in mind the aforementioned “pact”, Johnston emphasizes that the selection will be curated with eye on quality and artistic merit.
The soon-to-be-theater building is a classic in its own right, dating back to the 1930’s, and its interior design concept will incorporate inspirations from the past. Other unique features planned for The Citizen include appearances by directors and actors, an on-site oven for fresh baked goods and beer, wine and vegan snacks at the concession stand.
For more information visit TheCitizenTheater.com.