James “Buzz” Cusack and Kathleen Cusack Lyon, the operators of the Charles Theater, have declined to rent the facility out to the Maryland Film Festival for the first time in the annual event’s 15-year history.
Lyon cited the unprofitability of the festival and the scheduling difficulties it creates (that continue “for weeks afterward”) as the simple reasons behind the decision, but the move has some fans of the festival scratching their heads, and they’ve taken to social media to vent their frustrations.
One cinephile wondered how much of a hardship it could really be, given the ubiquity of regional film festivals that also take over the local art house for one weekend a year. Another was mystified that the Charles’s operators didn’t even offer to rent one or two screens (out of five) for the sake of goodwill.
Lyon pointed out that last year’s (practically involuntary) shift to digital projectors has burdened the theater with a “massive increase in overhead.” That makes sense, but one still has to wonder: How are the rest of the nation’s independent cinema’s making it work?
This year, the Maryland Film Festival will be held May 7-11 at MICA, the University of Baltimore, the Walters Art Museum, and the Windup Space.