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FilmBar, an indie movie theater in downtown Phoenix, has permanently closed

FilmBar at The Pemberton - handout
Posted at 12:24 PM, Jan 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-20 06:45:12-05

FilmBar has closed — and this time, the closure is permanent.

Owner Kelly Aubey opened the independent movie theater a decade ago in downtown Phoenix and gained a loyal following showing indie and non-mainstream films, while also hosting themed events and classic sing-alongs.

He announced the closure Tuesday afternoon in a letter posted to the theater's website. The same letter was also shared in an email and posted to social media.

"Surely, many of you have noticed that we’ve been closed for about a month with no updates. Please excuse the silence. I’ve had a lot to think about," Aubey wrote.

"This quiet time has helped me accept the inevitable: that is, that FilmBar will not be reopening. The strains of COVID have been too great and I don’t believe the future of small for-profit Arthouse cinemas is very bright. We were already operating on a razor’s edge and COVID has reduced the percentage of people who would normally come out to a show anytime in the near future to a point that’s no longer supportable," his letter continued.

When the pandemic forced movie theaters and other businesses to close, FilmBar closed along with them. He turned off lights and power to reduce electricity bills, attempted streaming to benefit FilmBar, and offered on-site private theater rentals.

In early 2021, Aubey said in an email to subscribers that he would likely lose the original FilmBar building, citing the continued financial strain from the pandemic. He opened an outdoor, open-air screen at Pemberton, a collective of independent stores, bars, breweries, and other beverage concepts.

Both are now closed, Aubey said in a text message to ABC15.

"I’m honored that FilmBar earned your support over the years. You could have just not shown up at all and I had no expectation that anyone would care about what we’ve trying to achieve here. Yet, enough of you did and helped us bring unusual, thought-provoking shows to Phoenix for nearly 11 years," he said.

As for the future, Aubey said he could see the possibility of reopening FilmBar as a nonprofit..."but right now I need to rest a bit."

"These last couple of years have done my head in and I need to take care of my mental health for a bit," he said.

Andrea Canales, the film programmer at FilmBar, has reportedly taken a new position with Majestic Theatres, according to the letter, where she will reportedly bring similar content to their venues.

Majestic has three theaters in Chandler, Gilbert, and Tempe. They were previously part of Alamo Drafthouse before the owners and Alamo parted ways.