The Wexner Center to resume in-person film programming on July 9

The Film/Video Theater will return to action with a three-film series from director Lynn Hershman Leeson

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
The Wexner Center Film/Video Theater

David Filipi understands that when the the Wexner Center resumes in-person film programming beginning on Friday, July 9, there will be some initial uncertainty as moviegoers adjust to late-pandemic realities.

“I’ve talked to some people, and they’re excited about going to a movie in-person,” said Filipi, director of film/video for the Wex. “And then I’ve talked to other people who are nowhere close to going to a movie in-person.”

Movie houses, including the Wex, are struggling with similar uncertainties, unsure of the ways the film landscape might have shifted in the last year-plus, with the pandemic accelerating the proliferation of home-streaming offerings. Still, following a 15-month stretch when Wex film programming existed solely online, including the Ohio Shorts Festival, which took place in April, Filipi is excited for the chance to again congregate with a live audience.

“There’s nothing like showing a film … and even if only 25 or 30 people show up, having people come up after and say how much they loved it, or wanting to talk to you about it," Filipi said. "Even if they’re just standing out in the lobby talking about [the movie], you can’t replace that."

The Wex will kick off live film programming with a three-film series from feminist director Lynn Hershman Leeson, focused on her work with actress Tilda Swinton, including: “Conceiving Ada,” screening Friday and Saturday, July 9 and 10; “Teknolust,” screening Friday and Saturday, July 16 and 17; and “Strange Culture,” screening on Friday and Saturday, July 23 and 24.

Leeson, who is the subject of a solo exhibition opening at New York City's New Museum on Wednesday, June 30, will also appear in conversation at the Wex with art historian and OSU associate professor Kris Paulsen on Thursday, July 22. 

Emile Hirsch was in the driver's seat in 'Speed Racer,' the Wachowskis' 2008 take on the old cartoon, which will screen at the Wexner Center in August.

Beginning in late July, following the Leeson series, the Wex will then host a five-film program highlighting movies designed to show off the capabilities of the big screen, including the Wachowskis' 2008 film “Speed Racer,” the 1955 Disney animated classic “Lady and the Tramp,” the Gene Kelly-starring “It’s Always Fair Weather,” also from 1955, the 1967 French-Italian comedy “Playtime,” and Julie Dash’s “Daughters of the Dust,” from 1991.

“‘Daughters of the Dust’ has this groundbreaking, lush cinematography that you just really can’t experience in the same way watching it on the small screen,” said Filipi, who added that the theater will screen 35mm prints of three of the films, including “Speed Racer,” “Playtime” and “It’s Always Fair Weather.” “These are films we hope will entice people to give us a chance, to come back and see films in person."

The Wex initially circled October for a return to in-person film programming, a timeline that accelerated as Filipi and others engaged in conversations with arts organizations across the country. Additionally, Filipi said the Wex at first anticipated opening at a limited capacity, hosting 50 moviegoers in a space that holds 295, restrictions that are no longer necessary as vaccine uptake increases and COVID-19 numbers continue to decline. (Masks will not be required for attendees who have been vaccinated.)

“We had these Lynn Hershman Leeson films planned already, and they were going to be streaming online, and there was a point we just floated the question: What if we did show these in person?” Filipi said. "It’s kind of like going to a restaurant now, where it was almost unthinkable at one point, and then all of a sudden you find yourself in a restaurant."

As a result of the quick pivot, Filip said film programming at the Wex will be a bit lighter through the summer, returning to a more robust schedule beginning in October. 

Moving forward, there is still some question of how the pandemic and some of its related adjustments could influence programming, particularly when it comes to streaming future content online. “It’s still going to be part of what we do,” Filipi said, “but we’re still trying to figure that part out.”