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The Loft Cinema makes new friends in other countries

The Loft Cinema is a card-carrying member of various independent theater organizations, such as The Sundance Institute's Art House Project and the New York Film Critics Series, which has recently allowed the Loft to preview screenings of American Hustle, Nebraska and other films in Tucson.

The scrappy non-profit has gone international for the latest honor: It's the second U.S. movie theater to be accepted into the International Confederation of Art Cinemas.

Peggy Johnson, the executive director of the Loft Cinema Foundation, is thrilled with the news.

"It means we'll be able to network more with foreign cinemas and bring in different kinds of films for our annual festival that we might not otherwise, and maybe access to filmmakers," Johnson said. "With the Sundance group, which is a similar organization here in the United States, our contacts have been incredible. We've learned so much from each other and I think the will be much the same."

The organization helps support independent filmmaking in counties around the world—and in many of those countries, the government subsidizes the film industry because otherwise, as Johnson put it, "Hollywood dominates everywhere."

"I think all countries recognize that having a film industry gives you a chance to tell your stories in your ways, with your people and your landscapes," Johnson said. "So they're coming together to try to network and build and get to know each other and thrive as cinemas."

The Loft, which was awarded the Tucson-Pima Arts Council's Lumie for Established Arts Organization in June, is on a roll. Opening a third screen in the former auto-repair shop next door has boosted the box office at the theater by 27 percent, according to Johnson.

"The main thing is, we can have three films showing at a time, which lets us bring more films to town," Johnson said. "Our marque, if you haven't noticed, is just insane. We have a special event almost every day now, because we can."

Johnson, who is has raised $1.5 million toward a $2.5 goal to build a new box office, lobby, gallery and office space on the property, said Loft fans can see the results already with the new screen and a larger parking lot. "We still need to raise a million dollars," said Johnson, but she's working with architects, builders, banks and others before launching the next phase of the fundraising effort.

Meanwhile, the fun continues at the Loft this summer. The Loft Kids Fest, featuring childhood favorites such as The Wizard of Oz, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and a collection of classic Looney Tunes on the big screen, kicks off on Saturday, July 19 (see this week's Calendar or Cinema Showdown for more details on that); The New York Film Critics Series brings Child of God, based on a Cormac McCarthy novel, to Tucson on Tuesday, July 29; the Art on Screen series presents the Royal Shakespeare Theatre's production of Henry IV Part II at the end of the month; the Spielberg Summer series wraps up with screenings of Jurassic Park on Thursday, July 17; Poltergeist on Thursday, July 24; The Goonies on Saturday, July 26; and Back to the Future on Thursday, July 31; this month's Staff Selects flick is Election, showing on Sunday July 20; next week's Mondo Monday will feature The Giant Gila Monster. It doesn't get much more eclectic than that.

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