Reeling Them In

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Thalia Film Club keeps Manhattan residents in the know

Manhattan is a town full of movie mavens; plenty of folks have an opinion on the best Buņuel or their fave Fellini. Looking to keep up with them? The Thalia Film Club might be just the thing.

Situated in Symphony Space, the reputable venue for arts and culture on the Upper West Side, the Thalia Film Club has been offering advance screenings of various independent, documentary and foreign films to its subscribers since the fall of 2010.

Series consist of five screenings held once every other week and occur three times per year: in the fall, winter and spring. This year's winter season just began and will continue through March 27.

Marshall Fine, a film and television writer for such outlets as Star magazine and The Huffington Post, runs the Thalia Film Club, which treats subscribers to pre-release screenings and includes Q and A sessions following the movies with special guests, including actors, directors and producers, allowing audience members to engage in thoughtful discussion with the creative minds behind the works they have just screened. One of the films shown this fall was current Oscar contender The Descendants, weeks before its theatrical run began. Producer Jim Taylor was on hand to discuss the film afterward.

There aren't many criteria for a film's selection. Fine watches the movies beforehand, and if he doesn't like them, they don't make the cut. Additionally, audiences-which number about 150-never know what film they will see prior to showing up.

"I don't announce films ahead of time," Fine said. "If you post a list, people might look the movie up and form their own opinion of it without having seen it. They may decide it's not their kind of movie."

Fine, who had just returned from the Sundance Film Festival before the start of Thalia's winter session, also likes the screenings to feel akin to the festival experience. (In addition to Sundance, Fine also attends the New York, Toronto and Tribeca festivals every year.) "It's my favorite way to see a movie," Fine explained, "knowing just a little about it, having that sense of discovery."

Fine's ability to discover cinematic gems is a proven one. The writer, whose journalistic career began when he started writing review for his junior high school paper in Minnesota, contributes daily to his website, Hollywood and Fine: Movies for Smart People. He helped create and run the Journal-News Film Club at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, N.Y., from 2001 to 2004 and went on to establish the Emelin Film Club in Mamaroneck in 2005.

A colleague's suggestion led him to talk to Symphony Space about the possibility of creating a club for film enthusiasts there as well. "There is nothing like it on the Upper West Side," Fine said of the location.

Clearly, Fine has his finger on the pulse of what movies matter. He screened The King's Speech last year, months prior to its eventual Best Picture win at the Oscars, leading many Thalia subscribers to view him as the Nostradamus of the film world. And in addition to The Descendants, one of the fall season's other movies was Margin Call, attended by the film's writer-director J. C. Chandor. Chandor went on to receive a Best Original Screenplay nomination for this month's Academy Awards.

For such an ardent fan of the arts, it's a special pleasure for Fine to host the film club in a historic screening room like the Thalia, renamed the Leonard Nimoy Thalia in honor of the performer who helped restore it. "I am happy and proud to be associated with the theater," Fine said. "I'm very happy with what we're doing."

Marshall Fine's work can be seen at Thalia Film Club single tickets and subscriptions are currently available at

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