Time Out with Cinefamily's Hadrian Belove
We snagged a couch at Cinefamily for a chat with the theater's founder on aesthetics, ephemerality and Korean fried chicken.
Photograph: Jakob N .Layman
In 2007, the film landscape of Los Angeles changed drastically with the opening of Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre, brainchild of LA native Hadrian Belove (founder of CineFile Video) and the Harkham family. For the last six years, Belove and his dedicated staff and volunteers have offered up some of the most diverse, wacky and thought-provoking programming in the city. Cinefamily means something different to everyone who's stood in line under the marquee, raced to claim a couch under the watchful eyes of silent movie legends, or cracked a beer on the back patio under the stars post-film. For some, it's a place for parties and pop-culture tributes. For others, an arthouse salon; a venue for contemporary indie films; or a host for major international directors. The point is, it can be whatever you want it to be—the mood changes nightly, but the quality and sense of community stay the same. We can't imagine LA without the Cinefamily, a place that brings us such unique and mindblowing events as Everything Is Festival, the theater's yearly gonzo art and comedy fest, opening August 12. Belove was kind enough to pause mid-set-up to sit and chat with us about the Fest, the theater and the LA spots he loves best.
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Time Out Los Angeles: Hi! Hello. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us—I know you must be pretty busy with Everything Is coming up next week. Can you tell us how that got started?
Hadrian Belove: Sure—it really started as a gag fest. One of the guys from Everything Is Terrible, Dimitri Simakis, was coming around the theater a lot, helping us make trailers and mixes. He was kind of like a fifth Beatle at the time, geeking out with us over found footage, and along with Suki-Rose Etter, another [former] programmer here, we decided to throw together a weekend of found comedy footage and call it a festival. It went so well that we did it again, and we’ve been expanding in scope and ambition each year. It’s become a catch-all for found footage and the comedy and art that found stuff inspires. It’s this mutant aesthetic, a gonzo archivist convention slash alt comedy slash arts festival.
Time Out Los Angeles: That’s quite a moniker.
Hadrian Belove: Ha. Yea, that’s the reason for the pretty vague official title.
Time Out Los Angeles: Gotcha. So what are you most looking forward to at this year’s, ahem, gonzo archivist convention?
Hadrian Belove: We’ve got Jonathan Robert, the chef from Thank You For Coming, running “Junk,” a pop-up, international snack shack where you can food-trip to stuff like candy cane-flavored Pringles and hamburger crust pizza. Remember when Pizza Hut did that? That was a real thing, it came out in Israel or something. Tiny hamburgers all along the crust.
Time Out Los Angeles: I can’t decide if that sounds gross or amazing.
Hadrian Belove: Well, we’re gonna recreate it, so you can try it out. We’ll have the Island of Misfit Video Games upstairs—just the weirdest and worst stuff we could find. We’re also doing some talent show type stuff—a championship whistler whistling along to rock videos and animated shorts, and John Moschitta Jr.—remember that guy? He holds the Guinness world record for fastest talker.
Time Out Los Angeles: Was he was the FedEx fast-talking-guy??
Hadrian Belove: Totally. And the Micro Machines fast-talking guy. I’m a huge fan of our bigger guests—Patton Oswalt, Maria Bamford, so on—but I’ll definitely be front and center for fast-talking guy. That kind of embodies the Fest—it’s a celebration of ephemerality. It’s great to curate something you feel might only happen once, to try something new, to surprise people.
Time Out: That seems like a pretty common theme throughout all of Cinefamily’s programming.
Hadrian Belove: Absolutely. The through-lines—there are four I can name you—are: What is hopefully a contagious enthusiasm for the subject at hand; an importance placed on taste and quality—showing only things we truly believe in; a communal, warm atmosphere; and the sense of discovery and innovation. We’re going to experiment, to try things different ways. And hopefully make people feel welcome and part of that experiment. I want movies to be as good of an option for interacting with your fellow man as going to a play, a bar, a concert, so on. And somehow, there aren’t many options for that. I mean, the aesthetic of mainstream movie theater chains is purely functional at best. In their desire not to offend anyone, to remain an anonymous delivery service, they’ve essentially reduced themselves to having the personality of airports or parking garages.
Time Out Los Angeles: I definitely don’t want to connect with my fellow man in a parking garage. What are some other LA places you feel are trying to counter that in a similar way to Cinefamily?
Hadrian Belove: Hmm. The Cinespia screenings… I mean, there are outdoor screenings done all across the country, I’ve been to many of them, and none are done as well as John Wyatt’s. He's so sensitive to his audience—a night at Cinespia is so much more than just a movie screening. And the Museum of Jurassic Technology is an exquisite masterpiece of curation. Even though the type of curating I do is different, this job has trained my eye to more fully appreciate how perfect and beautiful a place like that is. Their ability to create such a detailed atmosphere where everything supports their main aesthetic principle is pretty awesome. They’re like, the museum's museum.
Time Out Los Angeles: Very meta.
Hadrian Belove: Right? The art of the presentation is part of the art. It seems funny, for someone who’s so sloppy and sometimes as ramshackle as I am in my personal life, to care as much about those little details—with my broken glasses and mismatched socks—but I do.
Time Out Los Angeles: Speaking of details—are there any moments in Cinefamily history that really stick out for you?
Hadrian Belove: Oh, man—so many. Let’s see… the Telethon fundraiser we had last December was pretty amazing—it was probably the high point of Cinefamily’s entire six years. It kicked off with Robert Downey Jr. spontaneously offering to buy the projector we needed, out of nowhere onstage.
Time Out Los Angeles: Damn. That’s a pretty sizeable donation. How did you react?
Hadrian Belove: I think I pretended to drop the mic, like the whole thing was over before it began. But really, we still had a lot of work to do. We busted our asses—and then at the end, we had all been up for like, 30 hours. And it closed with a giant karaoke rendition of “A Little Help From My Friends.” We circled the theater three times dancing, danced out onto the sidewalk… it was very transformative. We were all delirious and ecstatic—it felt like we had done something really special. Making all these memories—which is what the job is really about.
Time Out Los Angeles: Any other Telethon memories that come to mind?
Hadrian Belove: Well, we had a flaming tuba with a propane tank inside of it. Looking back, we probably shouldn’t have done that.
Time Out Los Angeles: No, I’m pretty sure you should have.
Hadrian Belove: It was pretty cool.
Time Out Los Angeles: So, where do you recommend people go for food and drinks around the theater?
Time Out Los Angeles: What about the Kibitz Room? That’s my Cinefamily go-to.
Hadrian Belove: The Kibitz Room is amazing. I’ve been in there and seen Willie Chambers do a 15-minute version of “Time Has Come Today,” and no one in the bar knew who he was. It’s that kind of place. Funnily enough, most of the places I always end up taking people from out of town aren’t near the theater. Any Koreatown bar, it doesn’t really matter which one. The Prince is great—
Time Out Los Angeles: For fried chicken!
Hadrian Belove: Yeah! But the best Korean fried chicken is at this fast food chain…
Time Out Los Angeles: …Jollibee? No, that's Filipino.
Hadrian Belove: No, no! That place is disgusting. This place is on 6th Street, it’s a chain, the food is super spicy… KyoChon! Yeah… really spicy fast food fried chicken. It’s great, it’s perfectly calibrated for beer consumption. That and Mr. Pizza for women.
Time Out Los Angeles: For women?
Hadrian Belove: Yeah, that’s part of the name! Look closer at the menu.
Time Out Los Angeles: I wasn’t aware pizza could be “for women.” But I’m a woman, so I guess I’m okay with it.
Hadrian Belove: I think the food culture in LA is one of my favorite parts about the city. I started going on field trips through "Jonathan Gold’s 99 Essential Restaurants" as a structured way to force myself to go to different neighborhoods. It’s fun to eat great food, but also to go on sojourns—to see what Monterey Park is like, to visit Inglewood (for ribs, of course). From there I started going on other, less food-related field trips. LA is a great town to explore. The very thing that makes it difficult is also what makes it fun: It’s dense and widespread, so you can actually travel without leaving town.
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