Studio 35 Invites You to Come for a Beer, Stay for a Movie
According to Eric Brembeck, owner/operator of Studio 35 Cinema and Drafthouse (3055 Indianola Ave.), the only way to survive in this industry is to be different. His historic Clintonville theater is the proof.
“We’re doing well,” he says. “We’re up over 10% year to date over last year, which is amazing.”
His reasons behind the success: a homey theater with top notch image and sound; a surprisingly varied program, given the limitations of a single screen; and the best bar in the business.
“What’s better than beer and movies?” he asks.
Brembeck and his wife Rita Volpi bought Studio 35 in 2006. According to Brembeck, the single screen theater opened in 1938, changing hands many times over the years. Situated in the heart of Clintonville, the theater is truly a neighborhood institution, a fact that Brembeck and his staff take seriously. Between charity events to benefit the community, and an annual, free Christmas film to thank the neighborhood for putting up with any inconvenience, Studio 35 has become a beloved neighbor.
“We’re not going to get every moviegoer here, because we don’t show every movie. But we should be in the conversation,” he says. “Here, it’s so unique. Why not come here?”
Creating that uncommon environment has been a big investment for Brembeck and Volpi. In 2012 the pair closed their doors long enough to overhaul the entire building. It was a big job. Brembeck estimates that it was the first time the building had had any meaningful maintenance in 40 years.
The remodel included updates to sound and projection, extensive work in the 241-seat auditorium and bathrooms, and a complete rebuild of the bar, which now boasts 40 taps.
“This was actually the first theater in the country to get a liquor license, back in the early Seventies,” Brembeck says. “Everyone’s talking about dinner and movies, but we’ve been doing it for a long, long time.”
For Studio 35, the community’s piqued interest in craft beers is a plus.
“The craft beer scene has exploded, and people can come here, drink a great craft beer and watch a great movie. And it’s all reasonably priced, it’s not movie theater pricing,” he says.
Brembeck’s built unique relationships in the craft beer industry because his theater and bar are so tightly tied together, something he exploits, in particular, with his beer tastings.
“Nobody does it like we do. It’s a go-to-know kind of thing,” he says. “Let’s say we’re doing a Great Lakes beer tasting. We’re able to get pub exclusives – something they typically only sell at their pub in Cleveland. But it’s because we can get 150, 250 people in to watch a movie and drink their beer.”
How important is the bar to the overall success of the business?
“If we didn’t have the liquor license, we wouldn’t open,” he admits. “It just wouldn’t happen.”
Such is the struggle of a single screen theater. The limited number of auditoriums can make summertime programming a challenge, because studios tend to release a new blockbuster every week. With just one screen to fill and multi-week commitments, Brembeck has to be choosy. Right now, he’s betting on X-Men: Days of Future Past, which begins its three week run this Thursday.
“You have to be right every week,” Brembeck says of the programming. “There’s no room for error because if you pick a dud, then you’re stuck with it for 7, 14, sometimes 21 days.”
To stay successful, Brembeck makes the most of everything he has and keeps a constant eye on the future.
“I don’t care what we did yesterday because that doesn’t matter anymore. You’ve always got to plan for the future,” he says. “You’re competing with the weather, and there’s so much else to do. You’ve got to plan the next event, make it unique to get people to come.”
Part of that is the special programming, and Studio 35 has a long history of late night series that take advantage of their bar hours.
“We have a liquor license, we’re going to stay open until 2:30, and people are dying for something unique to do,” he explains.
Mainstays of his rotating late night programming are The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Bad Movie Night, and Fritz the Nite Owl.
“Rocky’s been here a long, long time,” says Brembeck. “It’s fun. It’s a cool thing to be able to have, for sure.”
His comparatively newer programming produces as well.
“Fritz is killing it,” he says. “Fritz is great, he was on TV, he’s 80 years old and he wears owl glasses. It’s awesome. We had over 200 people for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Fritz thing is amazing, and the Bad Movie Night is, too.”
What’s the secret to the success?
“People are just looking for something fun and original to do,” Brembeck says. “What better place to do it than here, in a beautiful theater?”
Here’s what you’ll find upcoming at Studio 35. For more information, visit studio35.com.
- X-Men: Days of Future Past opens Thursday, 5/22, 10:00 pm
- Bad Movie Nite, Friday, June 6, 11:30 pm
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Saturday, June 7, 11:30 pm
A full slate of movie reviews is available on my website www.maddwolf.com.
All photos provided by Studio 35.