Bethel Cinema

269 Greenwood Avenue,
Bethel, CT 06801

Unfavorite 5 people favorited this theater

Showing 1 - 25 of 37 comments

tommie63 on October 20, 2013 at 1:00 pm

I was a teenager in Bethel in 1976 and it was surprising that a tiny town of 12,000 people had a porn theater the “Penthouse Cinema”. Glad to know it has survived and is showing mainstream films.

bicyclereporter on November 6, 2012 at 7:55 pm

my friend is their Projection Manager. She just posted a FB pic of their all new digital units. They step into the next century.

Jeffrey1955 on December 2, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Gee…“a digital film’s 1000th viewing is as crisp as the first showing but…film offers a ‘certain warmth and flicker’…” sounds amazingly like what they were saying when music CDs came out about 25-30 years ago; now vinyl is making a comeback and people have long complained about a lack of “warmth” in digital recordings. The more things change…

shoeshoe14 on November 20, 2008 at 12:29 pm

Former Bethel Cinema owner Paul Schuyler, now manager of Bank Street Theatre in New Milford was on the front page of the News-Times yesterday holding some film and digital film. They are the first theater in the area to make the move to digital projection, not even the big area multiplex is doing this yet.

Tomorrow night they are showing Disney’s 3-D movie, “Bolt”. This week they are opening one new digital screening room for about $100,000. Soon the other 2 rooms will change. He touted that a digital film’s 1000th viewing is as crisp as the first showing but that film offers a “certain warmth and flicker”.

Yesterday and today at 7pm, before “Bolt” opens, they will show off their new digital screen at $5 showings of 3-D film, “Fly me to the Moon.”

Bethel Cinema manager Maria Schrader was quoted.

shoeshoe14 on June 30, 2008 at 4:35 pm

My friend just told me the new owners raised prices and not by a little. Everyone has been complaining for the last week and she urges them to complain with the suggestion box, and the owners are never there, so they workers have to endure the brunt of it.

Adult admission will remain at 9.50, but they raised senior citizens to 7.50! and students as well and matinees – student discounts are only during the week and not weekends. no more ladies nights and no more $6 all day monday.

The owner is the Prez of Focus Features and I chatted with him at length as have others and he says there are no independent films anywhere, which is what Bethel Cinema patrons want and love. He’s the Prez! No indies, my butt. He was just at Cannes.

Jeffrey1955 on June 2, 2008 at 7:21 pm

“my friend’s the projectionist and she showed me everything.”

Ah, to be young again.

shoeshoe14 on June 2, 2008 at 2:48 pm

Just thought I’d let you all know that the cinema still uses 35mm film. That makes me feel better when I watch movies there. Thought it was all DVD projector stuff, but my friend’s the projectionist and she showed me everything.

shoeshoe14 on December 3, 2007 at 2:25 pm

Went to the Film Fest this past weekend. The few films I saw weren’t well attended, maybe 1/3 full. This year they did it as regular prices, matinees and after 6pm full price. Theater 3 of the 4 was the film festival location with presentations by Tom Carruthers before each block of films. It was great.

meghankavs on October 29, 2007 at 10:12 pm

The restaurant next door is simply called “Bethel Café” and is run by general manager, Michele Crosby for over a year now. It is a really family-friendly place which offers a very large variety of meals. they are open for lunch wed-sunday, dinner everyday, and brunch on saturdays and sundays. the hours are as follows:
monday& tuesday- 5:30pm to 7:30pm
wed & thurs- 11am to 7:30pm
friday & saturday- 11am-9:30pm
sunday- 9am to 7:30pm

come stop in and check it out….great little place…and the food is excellent.

shoeshoe14 on June 26, 2006 at 6:50 am

So. They finally have a website but there’s no theater history on it. I’ll talk to my friend Liz who is the GM and have her put it up soon. It’s

Also, they’ve again opened the cafe next door. Don’t know the name but let’s hope it lasts longer than the other two incarnations.

shoeshoe14 on April 5, 2006 at 11:04 am

FYI: New Haven is not Bethel’s competition. They do fine by their own.

ZARDOZ on April 4, 2006 at 3:19 pm

This place could use at least one larger auditorium. Cozy is nice, but its competition in New Haven is cozy as well as roomy.

Jeffrey1955 on January 5, 2006 at 3:13 pm

ShoeShoe, you met Pam Karpen’s wife??

shoeshoe14 on January 5, 2006 at 10:27 am

D'oh. Someone beat me to it. But nyah, nyah, I already met the owners' wife, so there! Hehe. This is great news.

Jeffrey1955 on January 5, 2006 at 4:56 am

This time it appears the sale went through. Sounds like a good deal.
The show will go on
New owners of Bethel Cinema plan to keep art house format
By Marietta Homayonpour
BETHEL â€" Movie buffs, fear not.
Bethel Cinema, the area’s premiere showcase for independent and foreign films, was sold this week and the new owners plan to continue the theater’s art house format.

“We’re going to stay true to the art house and keep the art-house films here,” said Pam Karpen, a Weston resident who bought the Cinema with Bethel business owner Ken Karlan.

Cinema patrons have been anxious about the fate of the Greenwood Avenue theater since longtime owner Paul Schuyler announced in early May it was for sale for $650,000.

A deal with a Redding resident fell through at the 11th hour in late September, and Schuyler began negotiating with other prospective buyers.

Schuyler declined to reveal the final selling price, except it wasn’t $650,000. Karpen also declined to say how much she and Karlan paid for the 8,000-square-foot building, which holds four theaters and seats 425 people.

In an interview Wednesday, Karpen, 39, was elated about the recent sale. “This is very exciting, fantastic. I love this theater.”

Karpen’s enchantment goes back to her first visit, about five years. “I loved it from the moment I walked in. The concession stand, the small-town feeling, the intimacy. And I’ve always been a fan of independent art films.”

That’s good news for Bethel Cinema patrons.

“I’m pleased to hear it will continue the way it is, absolutely,” said Newtown’s John Gallichotte, 76.

Gallichotte and his wife, Patt, are members of a Bethel Cinema movie club and see about 100 films a year there. “It’s an interest both of us share,” Gallichotte said.

Bethel Cinema is a different world from the big theaters, he said, where the sound is too loud and the pre-movie commercials too long.

In the bigger theaters, “A great number of the movies are action, shoot-‘em-up ones for the younger set,” he said. They don’t provide as “enjoyable an experience” as a night out at the Bethel Cinema.

Bethel Cinema is a haven for Bethel’s Mike Dobsevage, who is 29. He sees its movies about two or three times a month and, when called for an interview Wednesday, said he was just getting ready to head there.

Dobsevage, a video editor for a Brookfield advertising agency, was glad to hear about the new owners' intentions. “If they stick to what they promise, it’s a good thing.”

Dobsevage said his taste in films is eclectic, he said, ranging from history, to social issues, to conflict. He’s lived in New York City and Boston, where he was used to readily available foreign and independent films. “The Bethel Cinema brings those films here.”

For Schuyler, who founded the Bethel Cinema exactly 13 years ago â€" in January 1993 â€" the sale left mixed feelings. “I’m a little bit ambivalent. But change is good, too. I feel there’s other opportunities for me out there.”

When Schuyler first announced Bethel Cinema was up for sale, he planned to move to Sarasota, Fla., to build a 260-seat IMAX theater. Since then, the original site for the theater has been lost and Schuyler is looking for another.

“It’s 50-50,” he said about the possibility of the IMAX venture.

For a few weeks, Schuyler will stay at Bethel Cinema to help with the transition.

“At this point,” Karpen said, “we’re not planning changes. We’re just learning the business.”

Karpen, the married mother of three young children, has a master’s degree in marketing and plans to do marketing and publicity for the theater.

When Karpen learned last year the Cinema was for sale, she told Karlan, a personal friend who owns Star Struck, a sports-products business in Bethel’s Francis J. Clarke Industrial Park.

“He said, ‘If you’d like an investor or partner, think of me,'Ÿ” Karpen said.

Bethel Cinema does not own the building it occupies on Greenwood Avenue, but the sale includes a continuation of the lease. It also includes an unused, 1,000-square-foot space adjacent to the Cinema, but has held several restaurants over the years.

“The Cinema leases that space,” said Schuyler, “but it could be sublet or it could be used by the Cinema. It has a beer and wine permit.”

Karpen said she and Karlan have not yet decided how to use the space.

Karpen also needs to explore is the Bethel Film Festival, the first of which was held in late October. “I know very little about the film festival, so I can’t comment right now.”

The successful festival showed more than 50 American and foreign independent films. Bethel resident Tom Carruthers, one of the festival partners, hopes for a second year at the Cinema.

“I look forward to working with the new owner,” said Carruthers, who will now be able to work “on setting up a date” for the next festival.

“It’s great that the Cinema sold, and it’s a great opportunity for the festival as long as they want to continue it.”[/quote]

shoeshoe14 on November 7, 2005 at 5:09 am

The final article, more than a week after the Bethel Film Festival finished.

Bethel film fest gets good buzz
By Eugene Driscoll

A fat guy in a suit chewing on a cigar didn’t walk up to Scott Sniffen and hand him a distribution deal at the end of the Bethel Film Festival, but the movie he worked on picked up some nice momentum.

“Novem,” a film about a long-lost rock band, won best feature at the festival that ended Oct. 30.

Sniffen, of Southbury, was the movie’s director of photography.

“When you’re trying to sell a movie, an award like that certainly doesn’t hurt,” he said.

While the Bethel Film Festival has closed up shop â€" the signs are coming down, the vintage movie poster display at the library is over â€" filmmakers are still talking about it.

The 56 movies screened last week in Bethel were independent â€" truly independent, unlike the recently released Edward R. Murrow biopic “Good Night and Good Luck,” which claims to be an independent film even though it stars George Clooney and cost $50 million to make.

“Novem,” meanwhile, was financed for under $250,000 by director Brad Kimmel, of Evansville, Ind. He’s trying to land a distribution deal to make the money back, get the movie in theaters and then get some dough for his next film.

It doesn’t hurt that he has a darn good movie. “Novem” has picked up nine awards at a slew of independent film festivals since April.

Filmmakers show their stuff at film festivals to build a buzz, collect press clippings and make their movies known. The ultimate goal is to find a company willing to distribute the movie into theaters, DVD shelves or cable television.

That may not have happened at Bethel â€" but, hey, that’s not the point of a first-time festival.

Thirty-three filmmakers attended the festival. Many attended question-and-answer sessions with the audience.

“The chance to see these independent films and to be in this intimate setting and talk to the directors and producers, that’s what made us so successful,” said Carol Spiegel, the festival’s programmer.

Kimmel said film festivals are crucial for independent filmmakers.

While it’s easy to find distributors for independent horror and exploitation flicks, selling a movie such as “Novem” isn’t as easy.

The plot can’t be explained in 35 words or less.

“Our film doesn’t have any stars in it,” Kimmel said. “It’s not a genre film that sells itself. It’s not about sharks eating people in the water.”

That’s why the Bethel Film Festival is important â€" it helps get the word out.

Kimmel said he was impressed by the Bethel Film Festival’s organization. He didn’t come to Bethel, but kept track of what was happening through the festival’s Web site.

“It sounds like I missed a good film festival,” Kimmel said. “From what I’ve heard, they really did a good job. They had a really good Web site, so you can tell they were really well organized. Filmmakers look for things like that.”

Hughes Dalton, who co-directed “Lift,” won “Best Short” during the festival’s closing luncheon in Danbury last week.

“The Bethel Film Festival had the look and feel of an event in its fifth or sixth year,” Dalton said.

Meanwhile, area businesses said the festival might not have attracted hundreds of thousands to downtown Bethel, but they want to see another festival next year.

“I hope it will come again next year. I’m a supporter of the arts,” said Peggy Polizzi, owner of Plain Jane’s restaurant on Greenwood Avenue.

The festival organizers are still tabulating just how many tickets were sold.

“We had some sold out screenings. We had some screenings that I wished we sold more tickets for,” Spiegel said.

Spiegel said the festival organizers have “every intention” of putting on another festival next year. One major question mark, however, is the venue.

Bethel Cinema, the town’s venerable art house theater, is up for sale. There’s no guarantee a new owner would be as welcoming as Paul Schuyler.

However, filmmakers want to see it happen.

“As the years go, it will grow larger and they’ll have more and more submissions,” Kimmel said. “They are off on the right foot and I think word of mouth about the festival is going to be very good.”

shoeshoe14 on October 29, 2005 at 6:33 pm

This film fest is amazing. It’s very surreal. Hanging out with folks I know, meeting new folks and talking film shop with distributors, selectors, judges and filmmakers. True community. Only meant to watch a few blocks, but stayed ALL day, 8 hours. Worth the money. Free posters, free bumper stickers and $7 shirts. Very affordable. Each block is either a short and a feature or a whole block of shorts. One particular film sold out twice and they’re adding a special showing Sunday (today) at 4pm in the large theater. So much to see, customize it. There were many kinks, but as an event organizer myself, it’s needed to learn. Can’t wait to see the last day today. It’s going to happen next year. And also, you can fill out your contact info on the back of your stub and enter it into the box for the title sponsor prize, 2 round trip tickets anywhere Independence Air flies.

Also, I was spotted by many of the volunteers and organizers who didn’t know me already because of my postings on this website. “Oh, you’re the guy who posts all the Bethel Cinema stuff on Cinema Treasures.

shoeshoe14 on October 27, 2005 at 9:10 am

Press just keeps coming in. October 28.

A good movie lies in eyes of the film fest audience
By Eugene Driscoll

BETHEL â€" My first movie at my first film festival?
“Perils in Nude Modeling.”

Thank you, Bethel Film Festival.

After a near sellout at premiere night Tuesday, the inaugural Bethel Film Festival kicked into high gear Wednesday with a full slate of flicks.

“Perils in Nude Modeling” started at 1:03 p.m. The first nude woman was glimpsed about a minute later.

Fear not parents, “Perils in Nude Modeling” is a harmless, 10-minute farce about a chubby guy with red hair desperately trying to complete a nude sketch for an art class that is more like “The Weakest Link” than the School of Visual Arts.

“Perils in Nude Modeling” was followed by “Formosa,” a full-length comedy from director Noah Kadner.

“Formosa,” a movie independently financed, is set in 1951. Director Sid Silver leads a team of actors that creates “social guidance” films for the local board of education. A young tough comes to town â€" allegedly a “Method” actor from New York City â€" and turns the small movie company upside down.

“Formosa” stunk up the cinema big time, folks.

Not only is it not funny â€" at just 86 minutes, it felt far too long.

But here is the great thing about film festivals â€" it’s a theater full of movie junkies. They’re not shy about giving their opinion, and then backing it up.

At the end of each movie, audience members get to fill out a tiny card rating the film on a one to five scale.

One means a dud like “Showgirls.” Five means a classic like “Godfather.”

“Formosa” pulled down a bunch of fours â€" at least on the cards I read over people’s shoulders as they handed them in.

So, after talking to fellow moviegoers at the end of “Formosa,” I came away with the impression I wouldn’t know a good movie if it walked up to my mama and slapped her upside her head.

Phyllis Willner of Danbury thought “Formosa” was top shelf entertainment.

“It was more artistic than you usually see,” Willner said. “You could see there was thought behind it.”

Her husband, Sheldon, liked the movie, too.

“It was nice seeing a movie that was different than the standard Hollywood fare,” he said.

The crowd at the theater Wednesday was steady, but not overwhelming.

There were many senior citizens and Bethel Cinema devotees â€" people who aren’t necessarily turned on by seeing The Rock kill cartoon monsters in “Doom,” last weekend’s box office winner.

After “Formosa,” I was worried about sitting through “The Greatest Good,” a two-hour documentary (the longest in the festival) about the U.S. Forest Service. That’s right â€" it’s about the U.S. Forest Service.

So I killed some time by chatting up Eileen Sheehan, the Danbury native who holds the titles “strategic planning, finance and volunteer coordination” for Bethel Film Festival, LLC, the company created to get the festival off the ground.

Walking into the festival, you can’t help but be impressed by the amount of stuff they have. You can buy a cool-looking Bethel Film Festival poster. Or a T-shirt. Or a tote bag. I heard there were free bumper stickers, but I missed them.

Anyway, those items are there thanks to the efforts of Sheehan â€" and the other film buffs who put this thing together.

“People enjoy independent film festivals because it gives them a chance to see something different, something with an independent point of view,” Sheehan said.

Like others in attendance, Sheehan usually traveled to New York City to go to film festivals. The Bethel Film Festival seemed a natural extension of the Bethel Cinema, known for showing less flashy, independent features, which is up for sale, by the way.

“I always wanted something cool like this going on in the area,” Sheehan said.

After talking to Sheehan, I wandered into theater No. 3, fully expecting to be put to sleep by the documentary about the U.S. Forest Service.

Man, was I wrong.

Two hours went by like two minutes. “The Greatest Good” is an engrossing documentary, carefully tracing the history of the government bureaucracy. It relies heavily on interviews with aging “foresters” â€" World War II era guys with buzz cuts who tended to the forests, cleared hiking paths and cut down trees to sell to the lumber industry.

The U.S. Forest Service lost its way by the 1970s, when it started clear cutting and became a cash cow for the feds. Anyway, don’t listen to me. See the movie for yourself. It plays again tonight at 7:30.

Movie lovers chatted up “The Greatest Good” as they left the theater. A teacher wanted her students to see it.

“It was fantastic. I’ve liked everything I’ve seen so far,” said Jill Kotch of Redding, who also viewed a block of dramatic short films Wednesday.

Jill’s husband, Arthur, loved “The Greatest Good” as well, but thought it could have been slightly shorter.

They started chatting about the movie with Mike Dobsevage, a video editor from Bethel.

“That was really well done,” said Dobsevage, a self-described “film addict” and a Bethel Cinema regular. “I’m really happy to see this in town.”

The Bethel Film Festival continues through Sunday. An awards brunch is scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday at Two Steps Downtown Grille at 5 Ives St. in Danbury.

“It’s just fabulous to have this here,” Jill Kotch said. “We used to go to New York to go to film festivals, but why do that now?”

Check out the complete schedule at or call the theater at (203) 790-4321.

shoeshoe14 on October 26, 2005 at 9:41 pm

What a night! It’s better when you’re a local and you know everyone and the volunteers. Six months ago they sent us all to the pre-website to take an hour questionnaire on the festival and organizing it, etc. We got a free pass to a movie for it. They also asked us if we would tend not to go if they had certain corporate sponsors (etc, if their workers were paid yuckily). Well their sponsors are all great local stores and a few large ones who are still fiercely independent and good brands who pay their employees well. No complaints and I like to complain.

It’s $8 a show or $199 for the week. Some showings are twice a week. I saw 2 docs today and it seemed longer paired together. 17-minutes and 88 minutes. The first one was about a musician friend of mine (Always A Pleasure) from 3 years ago (when he first told me about it). Followed by an amazing doc “Last of the First” about the oldest playing jazz band in the world, the Harlem Jazz and Blues Band. The 80-seat theater was packed and afterwards the filmmaker talked with a rep to the audience. I’m the guy who likes to stay to the end of every film’s credits. Everyone of course was getting up and wasn’t used to the guy standing in front, so they ask what do they do and I say, “Sit down and listen.”

Afterwards, my friend, the subject was playing at the upscale pizza joint across the way. Stella Artois, one of the sponsors was selling $2 bottles and you got to keep their large glass. Free gourmet brickoven pizza and hors d'oeuvres with homemade tiramisu.

That’s a great night.

There are plenty of guides or go to for showtimes. I’ll be going to a few more.

shoeshoe14 on October 26, 2005 at 11:49 am

First-year Bethel Film Festival already a big-time movie event
By Eugene Driscoll
[inset: Actor Keir Dullea, right, talks with, from left, John Grissmer, Mia Dilon and Carol Spiegel at the opening night Tuesday of the Bethel Film Festival.]

BETHEL â€" Five days. Fifty-seven movies. For film freaks, it’s overdose time.

The first-ever Bethel Film Festival kicked off Tuesday with “Shakespeare Behind Bars,” the critically acclaimed documentary about a prison production of “The Tempest.”

While audience members had to brave a nor'easter to get into the theater, Carol Spiegel wouldn’t have it any other way.

“When Bethel Cinema opened 13 years ago there was a huge snowstorm,” said Spiegel, the festival’s programmer. “We like to follow tradition.”

While this is the first year for the festival, organizers nevertheless received 300 entries, have top-shelf promotional material and the event is all over the Internet.

How’d they do it?

Well, it’s a combination of everything from digital technology to the help of volunteers willing to shove “Bethel Film Festival” signs into their neighbor’s lawn.

Film festivals such as the one underway in Bethel are popping up everywhere. Some â€" Cannes in France, Sundance in Utah, Tribeca in Manhattan â€" have become pop culture phenoms, where movie studio executives hunt for little known, low-budget flicks they can buy at a bargain.

Ever see “Napoleon Dynamite,” “The Blair Witch Project,” “Reservoir Dogs” or “Sex,Lies and Videotape”?

Each one started out like “The Milk Can,” playing Thursday at 9 p.m. in Bethel.

“The Milk Can” is the first movie from Matt Kresling, an Indiana born, University of Southern California-bred writer and director. The movie, about small-town football rivals who start a bitter feud is generating lots of buzz heading into Bethel.

Makers of small movies such as “The Milk Can” use small film festivals such as Bethel’s to build a resume, said John Boonstra, a movie critic for 20 years with the Fairfield County Weekly and its various editions around the state.

“(The filmmakers) are shopping their product. The idea is to collect as many awards at these little festivals as possible,” said Boonstra, who is serving on the jury of the Bethel festival.

The hope is the independent features that crack the festival circuit get noticed by the major studios or, at least, DVD distribution companies. Independent movies can bounce around festivals for two or three years before being picked up by a distributor â€" if it happens at all.

Boonstra, who served as a judge for nearly a decade with the New Haven Film Festival, already has watched six full-length features for the Bethel festival.

You’ll have to wait to hear what Boonstra liked â€" an awards brunch is scheduled for Friday at Two Steps Downtown Grille on Ives Street in Danbury. But the quality of the work impressed him, especially since Bethel is a new festival.

“You don’t want films that are amateurish, which is a risk for a first-time festival,” Boonstra said.“There were several that I saw that were quite good.”

That’s not an accident, said Spiegel, who traveled to film festivals in New York City and Rhode Island to talk up the Bethel festival.

In addition to the festivals, Spiegel spread the word through the Internet via The Web site connects independent filmmakers with festival organizers.

And there are boatloads of independent filmmakers out there, thanks to digital filmmaking, which uses electronic images instead of celluoid.

The digital revolution â€" spearheaded by shot-on-digital movies such as the “Star Wars” prequels and “28 Days Later” â€" allows everyone and their brother to make movies.

Now there are more movies out there than places to watch them.

Shooting digital is much cheaper than buying, shooting and processing film â€" and digital movies can be edited on home computers, said Scott Sniffen, a Southbury filmmaker who is leading a digital filmmaking workshop at Bethel Cinema on Friday at 3 p.m.

“With digital, thousands of dollars are being saved,” said Sniffen.

“Novem,” a movie on which Sniffen served as director of photography, is being screened at the festival tonight at 9 p.m.

The movie is about an early ‘70s rock band whose members died in a plane crash just before they broke the big time. Sniffen will be part of a question-and-answer session after the movie.

In addition to programming, the Bethel Film Festival has built lots of buzz because the organizers include guys such as Peter Howland and Thomas Carruthers.

In addition to being a film buff (his favorite movies include “Motorcycle Diaries,” “Citizen Kane” and 1940s-era film noir) Carruthers, a Bethel resident, specializes in event marketing.

That’s how the first-time festival managed to snag Independence Air as a sponsor. He persuaded the airline the festival would attract well-educated and wealthy patrons â€" just the type who might use the airline. And so Independence will fly movie makers into Connecticut â€"something unheard of for a small festival.

Despite the perks, the festival is sticking to the independent, community-minded spirit Paul Schuyler launched when he opened Bethel Cinema.

A gala planned for Friday at the Tarrywile Mansion in Danbury isn’t just so fancy folks from Fairifield County can rub shoulders with aspiring filmmakers â€" 50 percent of the proceeds are going to the Connecticut Food Bank.

“I’m just so excited,” said Spiegel, a few hours before the festival started. “It’s remarkable all the work, all these great films and all the people that are excited about this.”

shoeshoe14 on October 24, 2005 at 8:53 am

News-Times article on Bethel Film Festival.

Bethel Film Festival set to debut
Films by Ridgefield, Redding natives to be screened
By Marietta Homayonpour

BETHEL â€" Ithemba is a Zulu word for hope.
It’s the title of a documentary by Ridgefield native Keefe Murren, one of more than 50 movies that will be screened at Bethel’s first Film Festival beginning Tuesday at the Bethel Cinema.

Movies for the six-day festival include full-length features, animation, shorts, documentaries, and student films. They come from around the country and around the world, including “The Devil You Meet” by New Zealand director Geoff Talbot.

But, like “Ithemba,” a group of movies have a local connection â€" they’re made by filmmakers who live or were raised in the area.

Kicking off the festival is “Shakespeare Behind Bars,” which was a hit at Utah’s Sundance Film Festival and was produced by Redding native Jilann Spitzmiller.

For Murren, the screening of “Ithemba” on Wednesday night provides “a great way to get the hometown crowd” to see his film about a South African choir where everyone is HIV positive.

“This is a film about people fighting on the front lines against HIV-AIDS in that community,” Murren said.

The 27-year-old Murren spent six weeks in Durban, South Africa, filming the choir, which sings a mix of traditional Zulu and gospel music. Murren produced and directed the 60-minute movie with Storrs resident Nelson Walker, who filmed the choir in Boston, where it performed at an AIDS conference.

After graduating from Ridgefield High School in 1996, Murren went to Wesleyan University in Middletown, where he received his bachelor’s degree in anthropology and film studies. He spent a year in Germany on a Fulbright scholarship studying film in Berlin.

Murren lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., but his parents still live in Ridgefield and have a construction business in Redding.

Though “Ithemba” was broadcast the Sundance television channel in February and was in a film festival in San Francisco earlier this month, its screening at the Bethel Film Festival will be “the East Coast premier,” Murren said.

Besides providing “an independent point of view,” organizers of the Bethel Film Festival say the event has several goals. “It brings together culture, commerce and compassion,” said one of the festival’s producers, Tom Carruthers.

Commerce comes from creating “a top-notch tourism event” that will bring people to the area to use local restaurants and businesses, Carruthers said. The compassion is the fund-raiser set for Friday night at Danbury’s Tarrywile Mansion to benefit the Connecticut Food Bank as well as an online food drive and a vintage movie poster exhibit and sale at the Bethel Public Library.

All of the festival’s films will be shown at the Bethel Cinema, which is on Greenwood Avenue and has four theaters. Some screenings are of just one film and others combine a longer movie with a shorter one.

The films will be judged by a jury of men and women with film backgrounds, including professors, filmmakers, journalists and actor Keir Dullea.

The festival’s culmination will be Sunday morning at a brunch at Two Steps Downtown Grille in Danbury, where awards will be given in six categories from animation to world cinema.

Tickets for the first annual Bethel Film Festival, which starts Tuesdayand runs through Sunday, are $8 each, or $6 for senior citizens. They can be bought at a special box office open from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Bethel Cinema at 269 Greenwood Ave. or by going to:

Tickets for a special film festival gala at Tarrywile Mansion in Danbury on Friday night to benefit the Connecticut Food Bank and tickets for the awards brunch at Two Steps Downtown Grille in Danbury on Sunday morning can be reserved by calling (203) 790-4321.

shoeshoe14 on October 12, 2005 at 7:01 am

The Bethel Film Festival website has been up for a month or so. Check it out at

shoeshoe14 on September 24, 2005 at 6:27 am

The Bethel Cinema deal has fallen through! Read on from today’s Danbury News-Times.

Bethel Cinemas sale falls through
By Marietta Homayonpour
BETHEL â€" If the proposed sale of the Bethel Cinemas were an action movie, you might say it’s in the cliffhanger stage.

“We were just about ready to close” on the sale “when the deal fell apart at the 11th hour,” said Paul Schuyler, the founder and owner of the movie house.

Schuyler had planned to sell the theater to Redding businessman Scott Rhoades, with the closing date set for Sept. 29. But earlier this week, things unraveled.

“It’s very disappointing when something goes that far,” Schuyler said.

Rhoades, too, was disappointed.

“We ran into some complications on the deal,” he said.

Schuyler said he could not talk about why the deal fell apart. But he emphasized that “it wasn’t a problem between Scott and I.”

In early May, Schuyler announced that the cinema, where independent films have been shown for 13 years, was up for sale. Schuyler, 45, is moving with his wife and two young children to Florida next year to build a 260-seat IMAX theater for a new residential development in Sarasota.

When local film buffs heard the theater was up for sale, many were concerned. They were afraid new ownership might mean there would be no place locally to see European movies or controversial films like “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Schuyler hoped to sell to someone who would keep the same type of movies he had shown at the cinema, which has four theaters that seat a total of 425 people.

As Schuyler said when he announced his intention to sell, “I’ve made a good living at it and I’d like to think someone will keep it that way.”

That’s what Rhoades intended to do.

A movie buff himself, he planned to keep the cinema a place for avant-garde films and to be personally involved in the day-to-day operations of the theater, just as Schuyler is. The deal was to include Rhoades' reopening an adjoining restaurant. Two previous restaurants at the site closed, the latest in June.

In January 1993, Schuyler opened the theater during a snowstorm with “Howard’s End” and “Damage.” Between 1,500 to 2,000 films have been shown there since then.

The Greenwood Avenue building near Grassy Plain Street has had a varied history. At one time, family movies were shown there. Later, X-rated moves were aired. For awhile it was the home of Bright Clouds Christian ministry.

When Schuyler announced Bethel Cinema was up for sale in May, he got about 40 calls from prospective buyers. “There’s been a lot of interest in the theater.”

The sale price then was $650,000, and Schuyler said it hasn’t changed. That price includes everything from seats and projectors to computers and the concession stand.

Since the deal with Rhoades fell through, Schuyler has been in touch with other possible buyers. He said the prospect for a sale is promising. “You pick yourself up and dust yourself off.”

Schuyler also is looking forward to a first at the theater. A week-long festival featuring the work of emerging filmmakers is set for the end of October.

shoeshoe14 on August 11, 2005 at 3:25 pm

Just talked to my friend Liz who is co-manager at Bethel Cinema. She said the new owner is pumping some money into the place for renovations in September, hopefully getting it done before the Bethel Film Festival. They will revamp the concessions and the ticket booth. Since people coming in the front door build up so many people and the line stretches in all directions and bottles up (and crosses in front of theatres) they will make it so you can stand in front of it, not to the left side when you walk in and then put the main entrance door on the other end. That was my suggestion.

shoeshoe14 on July 20, 2005 at 10:35 pm

“Remaking Bethel Cinema” from the recent Fairfield County Weekly. View link