New Rochester Microcinema Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse Hosts Grand Opening Celebration this Friday

Photo courtesy of Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse.

Photo courtesy of Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse.

Rochester’s only microcinema, Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse, is set to open its doors this Friday. Theater owner Andy Smith hopes the business will help to build and support a vibrant film community in Rochester while retaining a distinctly Minnesotan vibe.

A Los Angeles native, Smith has a strong love for film, the film production industry, and spaces that build community around film. A former teacher, he had never launched his own business before but had always enjoyed starting something new and creating. Driven by this passion, Smith and his wife Anna developed the concept for a new microcinema business with their sights set on the upper Midwest. After looking at multiple locations and communities, Smith responded to a property listing by local commercial real estate agent Bucky Beeman and quickly narrowed his search to Rochester. 

Smith said Beeman was instrumental in not only finding the eventual end location for Gray Duck, he also introduced the couple to many local small business owners to begin their relationship building process.

Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse, located at 619 6th Avenue Northwest, will be smaller than your typical cinema, seating about sixty-six people.

“But we like that and it will build community, build intimacy, while not sacrificing any of the excellence that you’re used to in a move theater,” Smith explained. 

Gray Duck aims to showcase a “well rounded film diet” Smith said, including independent films, documentaries, large budget films, and the classics.

“We’re going to show excellent movies here. But we also just love movies,” he explained.

In addition to films, Gray Duck will offer a full-service coffee shop at the location in partnership with Fiddlehead Coffee. Movies will show Friday through Sunday. The coffee shop will be open all week, including outside of movie showtimes.

Regular movie tickets at Gray Duck will run for $8. Theater patrons can also purchase a “Flying V” subscription membership for $20 per month to attend an unlimited number of regular movie showings at no additional cost. The Gray Duck venue will also be available to rent for private showings or events outside of the regular movie showtimes.

While Smith developed his love for film in LA, he wants Gray Duck to be authentic to this region.

“We’re very purposefully being local and Minnesota centric,” he explained.

All of the concessions offered at the business will be locally sourced, from coffee to popcorn. Smith additionally hopes to build out a nonprofit arm of Gray Duck to help empower local film makers and to support a vibrant local film culture.

“We’re just excited to be here and we really want to build a really strong community,” he explained. 

Gray Duck will host its grand opening party this Friday night showing the 1925 Charlie Chaplin silent film The Gold Rush. Tickets are on sale for $75 a piece for this formal red-carpet event, which includes live musical accompaniment.

Gray Duck’s complete movie showing schedule for May is currently available on their website.

Thanks to The Commission for hosting a “Sneak Peak” last Thursday of this new-to-Rochester business!

#Emerge Episode 20 with Andy Smith

This week on #Emerge we sit down with new-to-Rochester resident Andy Smith. Andy is a former teacher turned entrepreneur and owner of Gray Duck Theater, a microcinema opening in Rochester this October. Gray Duck Theater aims to provide a mid-level cinema experience with excellent audio quality at an affordable price.

“I think we have a handful of cinemas in the area, cineplexes I should say. But nothing that is…romantic, unique.” -Andy Smith, Owner of Gray Duck Theater

Rochester Native Returns Home to Produce Latest Film

Photo courtesy of  Project Gaslight .

Photo courtesy of Project Gaslight.

After spending the last decade in L.A., Rochester native, visual effects specialist, and film producer Jon Julsrud has moved back to the city to create his latest film Project Gaslight. Currently, Julsrud and his team are participating in a national crowdfunding campaign to gain support for the film, which is set to begin shooting in Rochester next summer.

Julsrud and the team behind Project Gaslight have strong ties to Minnesota, especially the Rochester area. Julsrud himself graduated from Mayo High School in 2000. Afterwards, he attended nearby St. Olaf College, pursuing degrees in Psychology and Asian Studies. Julsrud later obtained a degree in visual effects from the Art Institutes of Minnesota, but could not find much work in that area within the state.

Instead, he set out to cut his teeth where it all happens in the film industry, Los Angeles. He spent the last decade as a compositor and visual effects specialist for films like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 and Captain America: The First Avenger. After a brief stint in Montreal, Julsrud returned home to Rochester to visit family and friends over a year ago and has remained in the city ever since.

“My goal has always been to come back here and make movies,” he explained.

After re-landing in Rochester, Julsrud launched a new company, called Box Office, just this May to assist in the marketing and distribution of independent films, which Julsrud explained is an “even bigger problem now than it was ten, fifteen years ago.” Box Office is also partnering with the company Brandwood Global to integrate brands and products into films, allowing the filmmaker to get paid for the provided exposure (think Reese’s Pieces in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial).

Box Office will present Julsrud’s latest project, a psychological thriller with the working name Project Gaslight. This film centers around the concept of gaslighting, which Julsrud explains is “essentially emotional abuse, psychological abuse that you systematically undermine someone in order to make them think they’re losing their grip on reality.” The film will center around two couples and aims to highlight “a common but often misunderstood form of emotional abuse.”

The cast and crew behind Project Gaslight is Minnesota-based, split between Rochester and the Twin Cities. The Director, Will Cox, has been a business partner of Julsrud’s for seven years; the pair opened their own boutique film production business in 2014. The film’s Screenwriter, Elyse Forbes, is based out of the Twin Cities, as is the Director of Photography, Ben Enke.

Alex Kauffman, one half of the Twin Cities’ hip-hop/electronica group Dichotomy, is creating the soundtrack and score for the film. Kauffman and Julsrud were childhood friends, growing up on the same block in Rochester. One of the female actresses, Emily Tremaine, also grew up in the same Rochester neighborhood. Quite a success story herself, Tremaine recently landed a role as Kevin Bacon’s daughter in the new Syfy series Tremors, a reboot of the 1990s cult classic.

Julsrud plans to shoot most the Project Gaslight scenes in Rochester, largely at his parents’ home on the outskirts of the city. He said the film was written with that location in mind.

Now, Project Gaslight is in the final stages of a crowdfunding campaign as part of Seed & Spark’s Hometown Heroes Rally to help bring the project to life. Seed & Spark is similar to other crowdfunding platforms, like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, but is focused solely on film and television production work. The Hometown Heroes Rally runs for one month and will end on Friday, October 13th as participating films vie for financial supporters and followers.

The Project Gaslight team aims to raise about $11K from this campaign, which amounts to 15% of the total budget for the film. Julsrud said the project will still happen if they don’t raise these funds, but the team will have to “be a little more creative with our overall budget.”

About eighty films are participating in the Rally, including two other projects from Minnesota: Minneapolis the Movie and Gleahan & the Naves of Industry.

The top ten performing campaigns- based on the number of followers- have the unique chance to be executive produced by Mark and Jay Duplass- actor, director and production brothers who have produced films like Safety Not Guaranteed. Julsrud said landing the Duplass brothers “would mean a whole lot” to his film. Besides potentially providing some funding for the project, the siblings would supply knowledge, experience, and a multitude of connections.

Ultimately, Julsrud hopes this project helps to spur more movie production in the Rochester and southeastern Minnesota area, which he says will provide a boost to both the local economy and tourism. As a passion project, he’s working to bring a regional tax credit to southeast Minnesota to attract and enable more filmmaking in this portion of the state.