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Rosebud Cinema plans to continue documentaries

Photo By Journal Sentinel files

Oct. 10, 2012

The daytime documentaries aren't going anywhere at the Rosebud once the Times Cinema opens.

While it's true that the Rosebud has traditionally played first-run movies exclusively and the Times Cinema, which is expected to open Nov. 16, has traditionally been the independent and documentary powerhouse of the two, the arrangement is not exclusive.

Both classic movie houses are now owned by Lee Barczak.

Since it reopened in Wauwatosa a few weeks ago, the Rosebud has been taking on double-duty work, presenting both first-run films like "Looper" and documentaries such as "Death by China."

Larry Widen, the theater's film buyer and marketer, said viewers shouldn't worry about the loss of daytime documentaries, at least based on what he has seen so far.

"I'm so pleased by the response to them," Widen said. "I think we're going to keep that track going here in that early slot."

As a supplement to screening independent movies, the Rosebud has also hosted question-and-answer sessions afterward, usually featuring the producers or directors of the independent films.

Delving into a 'Secret Life'

For instance, on Oct. 20, the theater will show "Secret Life Secret Death," a film about a woman who worked for the mafia in the 1920s and ran a brothel in Wisconsin. The producer, director and the main subject's granddaughter, Genevieve Davis, will answer questions following the screening.

Davis conceived the movie after she found out that her grandmother's past life.

"It's a painful story, and a lot of people find it interesting because a lot of people have family secrets," Davis said. "It's kind of a forum for people to connect."

The film, which has been shown in Chicago, Minnesota and elsewhere in the Midwest, was produced in Wisconsin and had its first showing in mid-April at the Oriental Theater in Milwaukee. Davis said Barczak's theaters offered her a better deal.

The right setting

"I had to pay a fortune to show at the Oriental," she said, noting that she shot her film on a shoestring budget with volunteer staff and donated costumes and sets, and was edited in her bedroom on top of her sewing machine. "I had to rent that theater and it's not cheap. The people at the Rosebud and the Times are really flexible."

She added: "It is so hard to show an independent film. What is the right theater? … What if you have a movie that makes people think? What if you have a truly independent film with no stars? Where are you going to show that movie if there isn't a place like the Times or the Rosebud?"

Aiming for quality

Widen appreciates that, saying the theater wants quality films and events to satisfy its audiences.

"We don't play junk here," he said. "… We do not seek out slasher movies and stupid teen comedies, and even R-rated comedies for that matter don't do well here. Our audiences really like mysteries, thrillers, good action movies, good comic book movies."

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