Monday, May 18, 2009

Film feature: Mos'Art Theatre goes independent route in Lake Park

Albert Rossodivita, left, and Philip Dvorak,
founders of the new Mos'Art Theatre in Lake Park.
(Photo by Katie Deits)

By Hap Erstein

LAKE PARK -- A new independent movie theater going up against the major studio releases in the height of summer blockbuster season. With cut-rate ticket prices, a Chick-fil-A sandwich coupon with each admission and free wi-fi access in the lobby.

And when it turns a profit, a portion of it will be earmarked for charity.

Philip Dvorak and Albert Rossodivita are complete novices when it comes to running a movie house, but they have plenty of good ideas. Now all they need is an audience.

After a sparsely attended break-in period over the past two weeks, the Mos’ Art Theatre opened this weekend at 700 Park Ave. in Lake Park. If the address sounds familiar, you may recall the old rock joint, The Kelsey Club, or Starlight Productions, which occupied the space briefly in the 2005-06 season.

Two years ago, Dvorak and Rossodivita discovered the place while searching for a site to carve out a community-oriented movie theater. “We ran across this location and started dreaming about how we could be a part of transforming this community, a part of making a difference in this town,” says Dvorak, a former mental health counselor. If you think that is an unusual background for running a theater, you could say the same for Rossodivita, an actively practicing minister.

Still, maybe experience at prayer might come in handy. If the economy was doing fine back in 2007 when they hatched this scheme, now seems like a terrible time to start a new venture. Yet Dvorak is nothing if not optimistic.

“I think opening a business when things are slowing down gives us opportunities you don’t have when the economy’s booming,” he explains. “You try and get a deal on projection equipment or on a screen in good times, and you’re going to have to pay peak price. But we’ve been able to do things and probably spend a lot less money than we would have back in 2007."

Dvorak begs off of saying how much he and his partner have spent to outfit and open Mos’ Art, but he concedes that the money is all out of their pockets. “We’re taking equity out of our houses,” he says. “We’re going all in.”

Both men are avid movie fans and they expect to program the theater with films they would like to sit and watch. “I like quirky, offbeat movies,” says Dvorak. “When we first started looking into this, we thought about doing the whole Emerging Cinemas path,” a reference to the growing network of theaters across the country -- including Lake Worth -- programmed and projected digitally from New York City.

“It would have been a lot easier, but we thought, ‘Let’s try to do it ourselves,’ where we have the ability to say, ‘Y’know what, we don’t want that movie this weekend. We want to play Rocky Horror instead,’ or whatever else it might be. To just have fun with it.”

Mos'Art Theatre occupies the former Kelsey Club building.
(Photo by Katie Deits)


They began from scratch, contacting as many production and distribution companies as they could, starting to build relationships and business arrangements. Ultimately, they hired a booking agent to assist them in acquiring films, many of which would not otherwise play South Florida.

Last week, for instance, Mos’ Art was showing Sherman’s Way, a critically acclaimed low-budget road trip picture (The Great Buck Howard, with John Malkovich, is coming this week). You prefer something a little older? It was playing in rotation with 1974’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the Saturday matinee choice, aimed at youngsters, was 1987’s The Princess Bride (also scheduled for this coming Saturday).

Ticket prices are a bargain -- $ 6 for adults, $4 for seniors and children, with all seats $5 for the matinees. And yes, each ticket doubles as a coupon for a free Chick-fil-A sandwich at the Northlake Boulevard store.

Dvorak understands that many theaters thrive on their snack bar sales, but so far he only offers the basics. “We have our popcorn, candy, soda -- the typical movie theater stuff. “We’ve been trying to keep it simple in the beginning and wait to hear what else people want,” he says. “We’re debating a beer and wine license in the future.”

The same goes for the programming, which expands next month with live theater for kids. On June 24-27, a production of Willy Wonka Jr. will be featured. “I love the idea of doing children’s theater, to make it available to the community at a reasonable rate," says Dvorak. “We’re open to a variety of things.”

The Mos'Art lobby doubles as a place for people to meet.
(Photo by Katie Deits)


As in its past incarnations, Mos’ Art has a sizable lobby area that doubles as an art gallery. “Where you first walk in, we have art hanging. And couches and free wi-fi. We want it to be a place where people can hang out and get to know each other, even if they’re not coming to watch a movie.”

It could be a while before Mos’ Art shows a profit, but when it does, Dvorak and Rossodivita intend to donate a portion of it to those in need. “We really do want to genuinely be a part of transforming this community,” says Dvorak. “We want to do what we can and it takes money to make a difference. We’re going to determine what that percentage is that we can afford and then hopefully continue to keep raising that up.”

Yes, movie theaters have come and gone, but Dvorak’s enthusiasm is so infectious, he just might make Mos’ Art Theatre work.

“If Cheers was a movie theater, we would be that. We want to be a place that people take a part in,” he says. “That they feel it’s their place, that they feel at home. We’re going to make it a good experience and a good value for everyone.”

MOS’ ART THEATRE, 700 Lake Ave., Lake Park. Call: (561) 337-6763 or visit www.mosarttheatre.com.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great Article Hap. I can't wait to check this place out.

Stephen Ley said...

I can't wait to check this out! Palm Beach County needs more creative ventures like this. Hope they do well.

Rachel said...

My husband and I have seen two indie films since the Mos'art Theatre opened. You can't beat the prices and the sound and picture quality are great. Now they have family movies and theatrical shows. We can't wait to bring all our friends. The Mos'art Theatre has great staff that are welcoming and accommodating. I'm really impressed that a couple guys pulled this old club into a fantastic art gallery and movie theatre.