Nathan Smith wanted to make going to the movies an event. As a fan of the Texas cinema chain Alamo Drafthouse, he was already interested in the idea of doing more than sitting in a dark room watching a big screen. And then he heard about the Mise en Scenesters Film Club in Chattanooga, who had started a pop-up theater, and the idea took hold.
“They’re a very similar model to what I’d like to do,” Smith says. “Every couple of weeks, they bring in some kind of independent, obscure, or kind of unusual film that might not play at a traditional movie theater, and they’ll maybe have a band come in and play after the film.”
Which is how Knoxville’s first pop-up movie theater, the Scruffy City Cinema Club, was born. Smith, who’s basically running the show by himself, will screen the 2012 documentary A Band Called Death, about a black Detroit proto-punk group whose early ’70s demos were released to critical acclaim by Drag City as ... For the Whole World to See in 2009, at Relix Variety Theatre on Saturday, Sept. 28, at 8 p.m. After the movie, Knoxville punk icons Teenage Love13 will play. Tickets, which will be available at the door, cost $10.
Smith, who runs a pop-culture and entertainment website called Smash Cut Magazine, wants to include more movie fans in the Knoxville film scene. And though the Scruff City Cinema Club isn’t really a club, Smith says calling it that “kind of helps make everyone feel more welcome.”
“We’re trying to support filmmaking and film production in Knoxville, but also cater to the people who just want to go to the movies and have a great time,” he explains.
After this weekend’s pop-up movie, Smith says he’s thinking of having another event in October. He will definitely have a screening of Drinking Buddies, Joe Swanberg’s new indie drama starring Anna Kendrick and Olivia Wilde, at the Bearden Beer Market in November.
“I’d love to make it monthly,” he says. “That’s probably, for the near future, what we’ll stick to. The next couple of months—we’re a little unsure of what exactly we’re going to do. If it goes really well, I’d love to make it weekly.”
But much of the future depends on how well the screening of A Band Called Death goes. Ultimately, Smith is just hoping to help put Knoxville on the map of the national film scene.
“I’d love to make Knoxville a place where, when people think of movies, they think of Knoxville.”