AFI goes arthouse

Move comes after cutbacks in federal funding

WASHINGTON — In the face of declining support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Film Institute is abandoning its daily screening schedule at its Kennedy Center theater.

The 25-year-old AFI auditorium will remain open but will switch to a monthly schedule that will focus on international and independent films. AFI director and CEO Jean Picker Firstenberg said the theater was forced to abandon its daily schedule because of cutbacks in federal funding.

“It is simply no longer viable for AFI to continue to bear the annual costs of running the theater on a daily basis under the current climate of lost Congressional support for the arts,” said Firstenberg.

While its saves money by staying dark several nights a month, the AFI hopes its new arthouse format will fill a void in D.C. created by the shuttering of the cities last two arthouse theaters, the Biograph and Key theaters, which have both closed within the last two years.

“Washington D.C. audiences no longer have the same access to independent and art movies or foreign-language cinema,” said Firstenberg.

The AFI is currently negotiating with officials in Montgomery County, Md., to open a theater just over the Washington D.C. city line. The theater would be fully financed by the county for at least its first several years of operation.

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