Summer is almost here, which means more time by the pool, vacations with friends and family and going to the movies. Going to the movies is a routine: you buy your ticket, sit down, watch the movie and come home. But that’s not the case at the Secret Movie Club in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. Craig Hammill, founder and organizer of the club, talks about how he built a community of midnight cinema enthusiasts.
Every weekend for Secret Movie Club, we present, right now, two to four films. We will show “The Birds” by Alfred Hitchcock, “Sunset Boulevard” by Billy Wilder, [Russ Meyer’s] “Faster, Pussycat!” To kill! To kill!” [and Taika Waititi’s] “Hunting for the Wilderpeople.” Then we will show [John McTiernan’s] “Predator”, and those are all great movies.
We showcase the films and give some anecdotes about them, and then encourage people to stick around afterwards to talk about it. It really is a conversation. You can’t have a movie without an audience.
Back to [the University of Southern California] when I was a student, I formed a club called Screenings. And what Screenings has done is show movies and bring in speakers. So cut to 20 years. I directed commercials and webisodes and wrote scripts. After I got married in 2015 I was trying to make a feature film and it fell apart.
I’ve talked to a lot of my friends who have made feature films, and they all said 51% of the game learns distribution, exposure, advertising, marketing. Because if you don’t get an audience for your movie, no one will give you the money to make a second movie. And that very calm voice inside of me reminded me of that club I did at USC, and I thought, “Well, maybe if I could find a movie theater and showing movies that I love, I would be passionate about that, but I could learn about audience building, marketing, exposure, advertising.
I emailed a lot of theaters around LA. The one that would work with me was the Vista, which is this beautiful, 1922-built, one-screen theater in Los Feliz, and the owner, Lance Alspaugh, answered me and said, “Hey, we’re ready for you. let movies show if you do them at midnight.
Secret Movie Club has grown because it is community driven, and we just keep growing. But while we’re doing it, we always try to do it from a place where we love movies and cinema, making sure everyone knows they’re part of the community. There is no hierarchy, it is very important for me. Hopefully this community is what we are building.