Located on the second floor of the newly revitalized Historic Ybor City Kress building at 1624 E 7th Ave., Screen Door Microcinema is nestled in a room which neighbors several new art spaces. It’s one of 13 new spots within the annex that opened this year, which, as a whole, is being referred to as the “Kress Collective.”
The 800-square-foot microcinema holds 38 seats, has theater quality sound and screen, Super 8-mm, 35-mm, and 16-mm projectors, and a vast collection of films. A large bulk of the cinema’s equipment was graciously loaned by the University of Tampa’s Department of Film, Animation, and New Media (FMX).
Since Screen Door’s opening in October, the microcinema has already shown nearly 40 programs, spanning genres and broadening the movie-loving community along the way. The co-founders aim to create a space for others to not only discover, but to also participate in the rich culture of film that can sometimes be hidden in plain sight.
Warren Cockerham, one of three co-owners, is a professor at University of Tampa, where he teaches Film. He grew up in Brooksville, Florida, and only recently discovered that there was a significant experimental cinema festival, Chinsegut Film Symposium, held in his own hometown for 27 years, from 1976-2003. He wants people to have access to the culture of cinema that he and many others didn’t have growing up.
“All these luminaries of visionary film would come to Brooksville and install these big, outdoor installations, right where I grew up and for the entire time that I was growing up,” he said. “It started like the year before I was born and ended right before I went to college.”
“It was there [in my hometown] the whole time and I never knew about it because the artists themselves and the programmers themselves didn’t even think about the community there,” he said.
After Warren moved from Brooksville to Gainesville to learn about experimental film at the University of Florida, he wondered what it would look like for students to learn outside of the classroom. Cockerham’s passion about exhibiting films within the community extends to the cinephiles in his classrooms, too. Film majors Penelope Vaughn and Ethan Tamasar, students of Cockerham’s, expressed gratitude for a cinema sanctuary like Screen Door.
“To be able to hear a projector roll the film out is a different experience than other modern movie theaters,” said Vaughn.
Tamasar feels it’s the only space that’s in his area where like-minded people in the arts can meet each other.
“It’s not a pretentious space in the slightest, but it attracts enthusiasts who are passionate about film or just art in general, and that is something that I’ve never experienced before,” he added.
Ann-Eliza Musoke and Sean O’Brien, the other two founders of Screen Door, are well-known for their own film events around Tampa Bay. O’Brien founded “Reel Deal Thursdays”, a monthly series located at Crowbar that mixes movies, music, and art.
Since February 2015, Musoke has been curating monthly pop-up cinema events under the name “Second Screen Cult Cinema” alongside Tyler Martinolich and Michael Martz, with much success.
Musoke said she met Warren and Sean through Second Screen and when the opportunity for the Screen Door space came up it all just came together. “We immediately knew that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a permanent space for movies where we weren’t limited to monthly events”, she said.
She continued that there are a few theaters in Tampa Bay playing indie and cult movies, but not many. Having a small theater with low overhead gives Screen Door the ability to take the kind of risks with programming larger spaces can’t.
In a Facebook post, Sean O’Brien said that the three refuse to limit themselves on what the space can be or who can be involved with it. “We want to show your student film, we want to screen that foreign film for people in this town that don’t get to see their cultures represented on the big screen, we want to rent you the theater so you and your friends can get together laugh and watch that crappy movie that in 100 years would never be shown again in the theater, we want to do a special screening of your music video for your friends and family, we want to host talks.”
In November, the crew invited filmmaker Georg Koszulinski to discuss the 15th anniversary screening of his film “Cracker Crazy,” where he shared personal stories about the making of the film. Screen Door also exhibited Kent Mackenzie’s “The Exiles” in 16-mm film, and opened the stage to Tampa-based sound project “AntiPriest” to perform a live score for the 1922 Benjamin Christensen film “Haxan.”
This month they showed classics such as the Orson Welles-directed thriller "The Stranger," stunned a full house with Saul William’s 2021 science fiction and romantic musical “Neptune Frost.”
This weekend, they show "Pee Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special" (7:30 p.m., Dec. 23). On Friday, Dec. 30, Screen Door Microcinema plays "Breathing Happy" from Tampa filmmaker Shane Brady.
In January and February, the trio will screen some A24 titles that are Oscar contenders as well as several new releases from the production company behind popular movies such as “Spring Breakers” and “The Florida Project.”
The microcinema is a hidden gem. Located between Revolve Clothing Exchange and the Habibi Hookah Bar, there is no indication on the front of the building except an occasional A-frame sign during events.
Tracy Midulla, facilitator of the Ybor Kress building and director and founder of the Tempus Projects, envisioned that the space would be perfect for Musoke, O’Brien, and Cockerham. “I thought, I have to call these guys because this thing is happening and it better not happen without them,” Midulla said.
She said it’s very important that the Kress Collective have more than just galleries. The building already houses visual arts, performing arts and literary arts. But it was important for Midulla to include Screen Door, so that the space can appeal to multiple “creative entities.”
Screen Door co-founder Musoke sees films as a communal and creative activity. For her, the best thing about watching movies is being with other people and talking about it afterwards.
“Movies were made to watch in the dark with friends and strangers and experience shared storytelling,” she said.
The Historic Ybor City Kress Collective, located on the third floor at 1624 E 7th Ave. includes:
- Dave Decker Photography
- Department of Contemporary Art Tampa, FL
- Drift Independent Curators Space
- Gratis, Jenny Carey Studio
- Heard Em Say Youth Arts Collective
- Kitchen Table Literary Arts
- Parachute Gallery
- Quaid Gallery
- Tempus Projects
- Tempus Volta
- Screen Door Microcinema
- Tampa City Ballet