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click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett

Matthew Curtis

Programming director, Enzian Theater/Florida Film Festival

As the programming director at Enzian Theater, Matthew Curtis gets to let a lifelong love of film play out on the screen for a (usually) appreciative audience. Born in New York, Curtis fell in love with movies at a young age.

"I remember going to the drive-in and seeing Pinocchio with my folks in my onesie and just falling in love with cinema on the spot," he says.

After attending New College in Sarasota, Curtis moved back to New York to work for Corinth Films, a film distribution company that sprang out of the renowned Janus Films. "When I got there in '80, I kind of took the company for a turn a little more culty. We started picking up films specifically for the non-theatrical market." That included music films like the Who's Quadrophenia or the early L.A. punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization.

That penchant for the obscure and noteworthy helped Curtis out when he moved to Central Florida and started programming and marketing for the Enzian on a part-time basis in 1987. He was part of the first Florida Film Festival selection committee in 1992 and moved over to the Enzian full-time as the programming director in 1996.

Part of Curtis' job takes him to the acclaimed Toronto and Sundance film festivals every year to scope out new movies that would be a good fit for Enzian or the Florida Film Festival. Curtis explains, "There are many film festival directors, that's all they do is travel around the world and go to festivals. But we have a theater to run, a great art cinema to run with tons of special programming."

As far as that programming goes, Curtis finds it difficult to pick a favorite aspect of the Enzian's schedule. "So many of these programs I feel like are my babies. And each one accomplishes something different. I absolutely love doing Cult Classics, but Cult Classics is increasingly more challenging because of the lack of 35mm prints." The Enzian uses a 35mm platter system in their projection room rather than a reel-to-reel system, and according to Curtis, "Some companies won't even let anyone platter their movies. They'll only work with reel-to-reel. That's extremely challenging, but we still manage to show great stuff."

Curtis is looking forward to the planned expansion of the Enzian Theater to a three-screen independent multiplex, despite current permitting tangles.

"What will be really wonderful is when the expansion happens and we're able to get the platter system out of the booth and put in reel-to-reel. And then basically we're going to have double or triple the amount of movies available to us," he promises. And that means that Curtis will be able to continue showing us his favorite movies for years to come.

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