You know you're in for a different cinematic experience from the moment you walk up to the Aurora Picture Show and come face to face with the video kaleidoscope outside -- the closest thing the theater has to a marquee. The converted church doubles as the home of Aurora's founder, Andrea Grover, making one of the best arguments around for heathenism. Vacated churches make great artistic venues: The price is right, there's lots of open space, and the camp value is fantastic.
Inside, you'll find such oddities as an applause sign from a defunct game show and a worn copy of the autobiography of Sandy Duncan, with whom Grover shares a remarkable resemblance. "I wanted an experience like the old picture shows, where the audience really has a reaction, and neighbors are elbow to elbow," Grover says. Her personality is certainly part of the place's appeal.
Originally Grover was just planning to rent some videos from the public library to watch with some friends, when the project sort of snowballed. She picked up some used electronic equipment from the rodeo, bought a couple of video projectors for $10 at an auction and secured the church. The opening was standing-room-only, and since then APS's popularity has never wavered. In fact, Grover eventually had to add extra screenings to thin the crowd.
"The difference between our shows as opposed to someplace else is that they are curated," says Grover, a visual artist who runs the theater like a gallery space. "We focus on short works by emerging artists rather than solo shows or feature-length films." Because of the cost involved in filmmaking, independent flicks are often shorter, but outlets for these projects are rare. Grover gets 15 to 20 submissions a month, thanks mostly to word of mouth.
To celebrate the theater's second anniversary, Grover will be showing Extremely Shorts III, a compilation of works three minutes long or less. Filmmakers from as far away as Japan have submitted cartoons, computer animation and footage taken on grainy 8mm film. The screening is appropriate, since the first Shorts christened the theater.
"It's a sampler platter for short attention spans," Grover cracks.
Judging from the religious fervor audiences have shown at past shows, they'll be sitting through many, many more.
Extremely Shorts III can be seen Saturday at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. There will be a free "congregational" picnic with music Sunday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. $5 suggested donation. 800 Aurora Street. For more information, call (713)868-2101.
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