Columbia City’s newest indie movie theater is back! Since halting almost all public screenings last March, The Beacon Cinema reopens tonight with a screening of The New Corporation at 7 p.m. 100% of ticket proceeds will go to the Kshama Solidarity campaign to fight the right-wing recall of socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant. The Beacon will also debut a remodeled and freshly repainted lobby and an even more focused lineup of film offerings.
Co-founders and co-owners Tommy Swenson and Casey Moore officially opened The Beacon in July of 2019 at 4405 Rainier Ave South, at what was once an office space with an adjoining yoga studio. Swenson and Moore are both cinephiles with roots in the University District of the 1990s, a time and place rife with cinema culture, including a handful of indie theaters, Scarecrow Video, and the now-closed Cinema Books. Before opening The Beacon, Swenson had been the film programmer for a local theater chain in Austin, Texas, and Moore had established his own film marketing firm, High Council. Swenson and Moore launched The Beacon as an opportunity to screen arthouse, rare, and cult films and as a complimentary theater to Columbia City’s historic Ark Lodge Cinemas.
After The Beacon’s official debut in 2019, it was only about eight months before the theater was forced to temporarily close due to the pandemic. “Looking back now, those first eight months were a great testing ground to begin to get a sense of what works for us, who our audience is, and what our programming can look like,” Swenson said.
The Seattle Globalist was a daily online publication that covered the connections between local and global issues in Seattle. The Emerald is keeping alive its legacy of highlighting our city’s diverse voices by regularly publishing and re-publishing stories aligned with the Globalist’s mission.
Stern and powerful matriarchs are central to most Thai families — they’re not big on hugs, but they will “yell at the people that need to be yelled at in your defense,” filmmaker Champ Ensminger said during a telephone interview. Ninlawan Pinyo, Ensminger’s grandmother and the central character in his short documentary Yai Nin, is a matriarch who defies all Western stereotypes of what it means to be an Asian woman — she’s feisty, confident, and the owner of the successful Naem Pinyo sausage factory in Chiang Mai, Thailand. But it wasn’t until after Ensminger moved back to Chiang Mai in 2013 that he began to witness the breadth of Pinyo’s personal power and her willingness to wield it to protect her family.
“The neighbors [thought] I was with a bunch of white backpacker folks trying to grow weed,” Ensminger said of the day his grandmother rescued him from Thai immigration police. The truth was that he was working with the nonprofit Documentary Arts Asia to build a theater and exhibition space. But nonetheless, he found himself and the other volunteers covered in dirt from the construction site and sulking in front of the immigration office. Pinyo arrived at the office and demanded to see the manager.
Tommy Swenson and Casey Moore were obsessed with movies as kids. Growing up in Seattle’s University District in the 1990s only served to further that obsession.
“There were, like, five or six different movie theatres, and Scarecrow Video, and Cinema Books,” Swenson said. “I was really plunged into this movies incubator, where I had access to see so much and got such an education, just by watching a lot of movies.”
South Seattle has a new “traveling” pop-up film cinema that is unlike any other. Purple Reels Pop-Up Cinema is all about bridging intergenerational gaps and providing a space to not only watch movies, but to connect and discuss classic films for social change.