Home Around Town Q&A with the Executive Director of The Chelsea Theater

Q&A with the Executive Director of The Chelsea Theater

Emily Kass, interim executive director of The Chelsea Theater tells us about the efforts to save the theater and expand its offerings

First Row: Emily Kass.
Second Row: Board members Del Snow, Charles Humble, Tom Henkel and Diana Newton.
Third Row: Tinka Deal, Gianluca Corinaldesi and Bonnie S. Bevan. (Board members not pictured: Gina Reynolds, Bernard Glassman, Mark Barroso, Sara Bent and Dave Haas.)
Photo by: Beth Mann.

How did you get involved saving The Chelsea?

I got involved because I am a longtime film-lover and read that the owner was retiring and thought, “This theater can’t close.” So I got involved with a group that got established to save it and we collectively were able to raise the funds to acquire the theater. We started in January 2018, and by March, we had bought the theater, opening on March 30. It was a tremendous grassroots coming together of the community.

What changes have the group made?

It was seamless, it went from that old ownership to our ownership and we became a nonprofit [that was] membership supported. We can keep the same price and same kinds of films and add an education mission. Education is very important to us.

One of the things we want to start doing is more pop-up events. [The theater held one in June when they showed “The Gospel According to André,” a documentary about fashion giant André Leon Talley.] We said, “Let’s invite people to dress up in their fashion,” and we’ll do a red carpet runway show. We had a Studio 54 mixtape and as people came in we said, “And who are you wearing tonight?”

What is the educational aspect that you mentioned?

Ultimately, the vision is to … develop some partnerships. With East Chapel Hill High School practically within walking distance, it seems logical to develop a relationship with them and teach cinema literacy or any other kind of subject content where we might have a film that relates. We already have relationships with UNC faculty in screenwriting [and] some of the other departments. With more general adult education, we already started a partnership with Carolina Public Humanities [and] we’re talking to them about creating a film program [that can be] held here.

Jessica is the Executive Editor for Chapel Hill Magazine. As a 2010 grad of UNC, she's happy to be back in town writing, editing and eating around the Triangle.