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Arts & Life

Kansas City Lovers Of 'Very Strange, Outside The Mainstream' Movies Now Have A Home

Stray Cat Cinema
Matthew Lloyd is one of the group of five film-lovers who received a grant from Charlotte Street to run a new microcinema in the Crossroads for the next year.

A decent-sized group of Kansas Citians will gather on Friday to watch a 1981 Western movie in 3D called “Comin’ at Ya!” The film will include scenes like one in which a boy pours grapes into a basket, but because the movie was shot in 3D, the grapes will appear to be falling toward these viewers.

According to Matthew Lloyd, the grapes have no plot significance. The character pouring the grapes is similarly inconsequential.

“It’s a glorious mess of a movie,” Lloyd says. “It doesn’t really make too much sense from a plot or character perspective. When we think of 3D as a gimmick — some people don’t like that — but this film is fun because it’s all gimmick.”

Lloyd is a video editor and motion and graphics artist. He and four friends recently received the Charlotte Street Foundation Start-Up Residency for what they’re calling Stray Cat Film Center, a microcinema in the Crossroads Arts District.

People around the city have, for several years now, shown independent, noncommercial films pop-up style, projecting onto screens in odd places like a quarry or onto the sails of boats on Lake Jacomo. And Lloyd, who has organized such events with a screening collective called the Cannonball Roarers, says they’ve never lost money showing those movies.

“There’s a group of people in this city that wants this. And trying to find a home for them is this new kind of problem we’ve been thinking about,” he says.

Caitlin Horsmon, a UMKC professor of film and media arts, says pop-up screenings are fun — just not ideal. One reason is that it’s a lot of work to find the location and manage the logistics of such an event.

Credit Isaac Ah-loe
Caitlin Horsmon is one of the founders of Stray Cat.

As the organizer of a screening series called Frames Per Second, Horsmon knows of film artists from other cities who would like to screen their work here, but no space is readily available.

Now that they have this grant and a 50-seat theater with a six by ten-foot screen at 16th and Broadway (just across the street from the Kauffman Center), unusual films and those who love them have a place, at least for the next year. Lloyd says he wants Stray Cat to be a home for that “crazy idea” someone has.

Many of the films they love can be described as psychotronic, which the two define as an extreme version of low-budget or B-movies — very “strange and outside the mainstream,” Lloyd says.

Horsmon says these films aren’t really classified by what the filmmakers say about them, but by what viewers say about them in hindsight.

Credit Stray Cat
Stray Cat Film Center has its grand opening on October 5.

She jokes that they don’t all feature “vampire racecar drivers,” but they have a similar sensibility and relationship with the audience that inspires a lot of audience attention.

“It’s a sort of fan culture that’s different from other kinds of cinema,” she says.

The two, whose business partners are Jaclyn Danger, Jori Sackin and Laura Kozak, say they don’t ever want Stray Cat to be a money-maker.

“It’s really meant to be a community space that is open to anybody who wants to screen something, whether it’s home movies or activist videos or some Super 8 reels they bought at a thrift store. Whatever it is, we’re open to screening it within some pretty loose limits,” Horsmon says.

The guiding light seems to be weirdness.

“We like a lot of movies that are really specific and the joy of them is kind of like, the audience getting to sit there and think: Why is this crazy shot in this movie?” Lloyd says. “There’s something outside the film itself, like the experience of watching it is the really fun part.”

Correction: The original version of this story included incorrect times for the opening house. The times below are correct.

Stray Cat Microcinema Co-op grand opening open house, 7-9:30 p.m., Friday, October 5, with a showing of “Comin' at Ya!” at 9:30 p.m. at 1662 Broadway, Kansas City, Missouri 64108.

Follow KCUR contributor Anne Kniggendorf on Twitter, @annekniggendorf.

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