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Circle Cinema

Tulsa

10 S. Lewis Ave.
Tulsa
918-585-3504

The art of filmmaking has enchanted countless audiences for over 120 years, presenting the human experience up on a silver screen. Movies function as a means to interpret the gamut of life — to celebrate unlikely victories, cry with the broken, and root for the underdog; to experience empathy for villains and for the misunderstood, travel in the shoes of the rejected, and gain new hope and inspiration through the uncompromising and the brave. Many people throughout history have made reference to the “magic” of the movies, and likely this is because of the deep emotion that film is able to elicit within us. Film allows us to cope and to grow, to laugh and to change, and Tulsa’s independently owned Circle Cinema has been housing the magic of the movies for almost 90 years. The Circle shows a wide array of films, each one chosen for having some sort of cultural weight or significance. These films largely come from the following categories: current documentaries; independent and foreign films; films from film premieres that were locally produced and directed; film festivals; films co-sponsored by other Tulsa nonprofit organizations; and films created through filmmaking classes, including high school and college.

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October 2016

Picture This

The art of filmmaking has enchanted countless audiences for over 120 years, presenting the human experience up on a silver screen. Movies function as a means to interpret the gamut of life — to celebrate unlikely victories, cry with the broken, and root for the underdog; to experience empathy for villains and for the misunderstood, travel in the shoes of the rejected, and gain new hope and inspiration through the uncompromising and the brave.

Many people throughout history have made reference to the “magic” of the movies, and likely this is because of the deep emotion that film is able to elicit within us. Film allows us to cope and to grow, to laugh and to change, and Tulsa’s independently owned Circle Cinema has been housing the magic of the movies for almost 90 years.

“The Circle Cinema was built in 1928, in the Kendall Whittier neighborhood,” says Chuck Foxen, the programmer for the Circle. “It was originally a single screen theatre that was really popular with the neighborhood children. The façade was restored to the 1950s era, with the original marquee. The Circle Cinema is listed with the Oklahoma Historical Preservation office and has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.”

One of the theatre’s biggest claims to fame is its appearance in the opening scene of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders. The Circle’s affiliation with Ponyboy, Soda and the rest of the Greasers magnified the theatre’s reputation as a place of great historical and cultural significance. Today, Foxen and the rest of the staff at the Circle Cinema Foundation work hard to bring in films that both honor such a rich legacy and promote culture through the camera lens.

“The Circle Cinema Foundation is an Oklahoma nonprofit corporation. Our mission statement is ‘to use film to foster understanding and appreciation of the diversity of the human experience, and create community among the viewers in the restored historic Circle Cinema,’” Foxen states. “The theatre’s co-founder, Clark Weins, is still very involved. Clark travels to film festivals including Toronto International and Sundance to select films. Everything we show has been seen and selected with our mission in mind — community consciousness through film.”

The Circle shows a wide array of films, each one chosen for having some sort of cultural weight or significance.
The Circle shows a wide array of films, each one chosen for having some sort of cultural weight or significance.

The Circle shows a wide array of films, each one chosen for having some sort of cultural weight or significance. These films largely come from the following categories: current documentaries; independent and foreign films; films from film premieres that were locally produced and directed; film festivals; films co-sponsored by other Tulsa nonprofit organizations; and films created through filmmaking classes, including high school and college.

An outing to the Circle is quite different from a trip to other chain-franchised movie houses. Unlike larger, corporate-run theaters, Circle Cinema chooses films based on quality of content rather than what might currently be the biggest, loudest, most moneymaking hits.

“Circle Cinema is locally programmed and operated. We watch and program films we feel will resonate with our community,” says Foxen.

“We watch a lot of films at festivals — sometimes about five a day. We also have built great relationships with distributors, and they send films for us to view as well. We will occasionally share a film with other chain theaters, but we are confident that our theatre is cleaner, a better movie watching experience, and less expensive than chain theaters.”

One huge aspect that really sets the Circle apart from chain theaters is frequently hosting live, interactive events for audiences around a film screening. “When we opened Captain Fantastic (shared with the Chinese owned company, AMC) in July, we had Tulsa actress Samantha Isler here for a Q&A after the film. Since we are a locally based cinema, we knew Samantha performed in the film and made contact with her to enhance the film experience,” Foxen says.

The theatre’s staff goes to great lengths to create personalized experiences in order to stimulate imagination and build community through the art of film appreciation.

“One of the things people love about Circle Cinema is the diversity of programming. There’s something for everyone. We take lots of input from Circle Cinema members and staff about upcoming films. Twenty-five percent of our programming is free, and Indie Lens Pop-Up is a great example. Indie Lens Pop-Up is a neighborhood series that brings people together for film screenings at Circle Cinema with community driven conversations. This program features documentaries seen on PBS’s Independent Lens and draws local residents, leaders, and organizations to discuss what matters most, from newsworthy topics to family and relationships,” says Foxen.

The Circle Cinema concessions stand also serves locally baked confections, like cookies from Altamont Bakery and other delicacies from Antoinette Baking Co. So the next time you head out to experience the magic of the movies, trade in the overly buttered popcorn of the chain theaters for a much more aesthetic, high quality experience at the Circle Cinema.

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