Kim Haywood is the Executive Director of Rodeo Cinema, Oklahoma City’s first independent art house theater that’s open seven days a week. Starting as a film producer, she then progressed to using her skills at the deadCenter Film Festival, where she was the Director of Programming and Education for 14 years. You can find Rodeo Cinema on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
AM: What was your journey to becoming the Executive Director at Rodeo Cinema?
KIM: After graduating with a film and video studies degree from the University of Oklahoma, I immediately began volunteering at the deadCenter Film Festival. Like a lot of recent graduates, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I needed to stay connected with the local film scene.
In 2006, the festival had grown in such a way that it needed a full-time staff member and thus began my independent film journey. Of the many film connections I made at deadCenter, one of the strongest was with the amazing team at Circle Cinema in Tulsa. I’ve always been so impressed with what they do in their community and wildly excited at the opportunity to create a similar nonprofit art house theater in Oklahoma City.
AM: What does it mean for Rodeo Cinema to “approach film watching as an experience”?
KIM: Many moviegoers take a “get in, get out” approach when seeing films in a theater. They purchase their tickets, hit up concessions, watch the movie and head out. As a medium, film is at its best when there’s a shared experience or connection between the artist and the art form.
As often as possible, Rodeo Cinema invites filmmakers to speak after films and answer questions from the audience. Following certain films, we host panel discussions with local organizations to help spread their missions. And, we partner with other nonprofits to shine a light on their cause. Creating these experiences around film makes us more than just a movie theater, it makes a community center based around film.
AM: How do you connect with people used to an “on-demand streaming” experience to bring them to the movie theater?
KIM: Admittedly, there’s nothing like being curled up on your couch in PJs watching the most recent buzzed about film on a streaming service.
But, there is something exceptional about being in a room of people and having a common shared experience with a movie. Whether you’re laughing, crying or gasping in horror, seeing a film with others in a theater connects us on the most basic human level.
Once we earn an audience member’s trust and get them to our theater, it is an easy reminder of why experiencing a film in that way is so wonderful. This connectivity to film is something people simply cannot get while watching films at home.
AM: How should movie theater brands evolve to adapt to address the needs of the modern consumer?
KIM: The theater that houses Rodeo Cinema was built in 1924. Back then, and until around the 1970s, movie theaters were an institution in their specific community. With the growth of multiplexes, theaters have lost their sense of connecting back to the community that houses them.
If there is one thing I learned during my time at deadCenter Film Festival, it is that people want to feel as if they are part of something, to feel as if they are a stakeholder. And stakeholders should have a voice. From discussions with filmmakers and educational panels to suggestions on upcoming programming, if someone has something to say, we listen.
AM: What trends do you see in the industry of movie theaters that you have found to be worthwhile? What trends do you feel, in your experience, are misguided?
KIM: In recent years, we have seen incredible growth in the art house cinema movement across the country. These theaters are typically one to three screens and exclusively show the best of independent, foreign and documentary film. These are films telling stories which would otherwise get lost in a theater full of high budget superhero flicks. And while I wouldn’t consider it misguided, anything that distracts from a film’s storytelling seems more gimmick and less appreciation of the art form.
AM: Anything else you want to add?
KIM: One thing that makes Rodeo Cinema stand out from other movie theaters is that we are a nonprofit. Around 50% of a movie ticket goes to the studio and to pay sales tax. As a nonprofit, 100% of memberships and donations stay at Rodeo Cinema to ensure that we are able to continue our great film, events and community programming.