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Theater turns Art House Cinema at The Alliance for the Arts

Through its partnership with Theatre Conspiracy, now in its 29th season, the Alliance is also home to some of this area’s best live theater performances. And now, Executive Director Molly Deckart, above, has announced that the Alliance is expanding its repertoire to include film.

Since its founding in 1975, the Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers has built an enviable reputation as one of Southwest Florida’s pre-eminent visual arts venues.

Through its partnership with Theatre Conspiracy, now in its 29th season, the Alliance is also home to some of this area’s best live theater performances. And now, Executive Director Molly Deckart has announced that the Alliance is expanding its repertoire to include film.

“Film is a cultural touchstone. It’s become really the predominant consumption of the arts," said Deckart. "Film is something that addresses, you know, social issues, cultural issues, education. It brings us a level of exposure that really a lot of other art forms can’t do in 90 minutes.”

Film is an art form with a language and aesthetic all its own. But what Deckart and the Alliance are seeking to create is a home for art as opposed to mainstream cinema. The former possesses impressionistic and contemplative qualities that challenge the audience’s perceptions. The latter is more about entertainment, although films like Star Wars, Avatar and the Marvel superhero franchises can quickly become part of pop culture in the same way as Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup and Marilyn Monroe series.

But while the Alliance has christened its film component the Art House Cinema, Deckart is quick to point out that it won’t be pigeonholing itself into one genre.

“You could see a rom-com here by a local filmmaker or you can see a doc. It’s really going to be dependent on the filmmaker," she said. "I’ve got roots in horror so I would expect some scary movies to be shown here too."

Although her degree is in fine arts with an emphasis in painting, Deckart has an extensive background in film. Prior to relocating to Lee County, Deckart ran the Idaho Horror Film Festival for 7 years.

“We were the only woman-run film festival in the world. So, we had 8,000 people over four days watching any kind of horror you could imagine," she recalled. "We had horror lite ... we had a WTF block at midnight, and that was all the weird stuff. It was fun.”

But more, Deckart understands the economic benefits of creating a climate that supports local filmmakers.

“Film was a great way to keep talent anchored to the state. And that’s trades and contracting and hospitality and the arts that all worked together to produce something," she said. "I spent many years developing financing packages, working with other states, passing tax rebate legislation relating to film production and just really saw how it could elevate the arts in a community in a way that serves all the small businesses, all the mom-and-pop shops. It winds up being beneficial for all.”

Beginning in September, South Arts will be bringing six films and their filmmakers to Art House Cinema, and Deckart will tap into the relationships she forged in the film industry during her tenure in Idaho to curate other independent films and documentaries. But she also expects to feature the many local filmmakers who’ve brought their work in the past to the Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Naples, and Sarasota Film Festivals.

“We want to be a community resource. So if there’s local filmmakers that are making films, we want them to screen it here.”

Screenings will take place in the Foulds Theatre.

“Now it’s going to do double duty. We have cinema-grade projector, sound and screen. It’s retractable. It’s not going to get in the way of normal things. But when you put that screen down, it feels like you’re at the movies. It’s perfect. It has 135 seats. Makes for a nice, intimate screening experience, and I think it will be great for filmmakers as well.”

And Deckart hasn’t overlooked moviegoers’ obsession with popcorn and other concessions.

“We are transforming a theater closet or theater lobby closet to be a snack bar and we’re about halfway through the process of putting a liquor license on it. So you should be able to have a cocktail too, which I think will be lovely.”

But in addition to adult beverages, Deckart knows that the public has a thirst to interact with filmmakers and the actors who appear on the silver screen. So there will be deep-dive Q&As and pre- and post-screening receptions in conjunction with each film.

“That is a really critical component to developing this kind of culture of film here in Fort Myers is that interaction with filmmakers is really critical.”

Deckart has an ambitious goal. She wants Art House Cinema to become the vortex of independent film and documentary viewing within an 88-mile radius of the Alliance for the Arts.


  • In addition to running the Idaho Horror Film Festival for seven years, Deckart also directed the Boise Film Foundation.
  • In 2020, Deckart was named by Idaho Business Review’s 2020 Women of the Year.
  • Deckart became Executive Director of the Alliance for the Arts in February of 2021, selected from a pool of more than 200 candidates who applied for the position.
  • The Alliance for the Arts currently has in excess of 1,250 members and an operating budget of more than $1.2 million. Located on a 10-acre campus at the intersection of McGregor and Colonial boulevards, the Alliance hosts monthly art exhibitions, classes, concerts, plays and festivals such as Fringe Fort Myers, as well as outdoor events including its popular Farmer’s Market.
  • The Alliance is launching Art House Cinema with an invite-only event on June 23rd that will feature a screening of Banksy’s film Exit Through the Gift Shop, which Deckart describes as “light, whacky, apolitical, [offering] an intimate view of Banks’s experience with a very eccentric guy in his inner circle.”
  • While the June 23rd launch is not open to the public, Art House Cinema will host some free, get-acquainted screenings in the near future. Check the calendar posted on the Alliance’s website, www.artinlee.org, for dates, times and titles.
  • In addition to becoming a home and proving ground for local filmmakers, Deckart hopes that Art House Cinema can help promote and support the area’s numerous annual film festivals. “If there are film festivals that would like to utilize the space or other organizations that want to host a film that’s mission aligned, we want it to be a space that’s utilized for multiple different reasons,” Deckart says.
  • Scheduling will be somewhat flexible. While a multiple film series is planned, Theatre Conspiracy will continue to enjoy primacy when it comes to choosing dates for their various performances. But, Molly notes, the theater is always dark on Mondays and there are typically gaps between Theatre Conspiracy productions.
  • In partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the State Arts Agencies of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee — with additional funding from other public and private donors such as the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation — South Arts supports artists and organizations through a rich and responsive portfolio of grants, fellowships, and programs. Additionally, South Arts offers programs that increase access to the arts. In partnership with screening partner venues across the region, we tour independent filmmakers to screen their work and lead conversations.
  • “I am also committed to the American Film Institute’s ‘100 Films to See Before I Die’ series,” notes Deckart, who plans to run one from the list each month.

To read more stories about the arts in Southwest Florida visit Tom Hall's website: SWFL Art in the News.

Spotlight on the Arts for WGCU is funded in part by Naomi Bloom, Jay & Toshiko Tompkins, and Julie & Phil Wade.