By pete warzel | Photos by kerry gallagher
Jean Cocteau’s Eternal Return
fter seven years of languishing in the dark, the beloved Jean Cocteau Cinema is about to make a comeback, thanks in no small part to a new owner who loves film: author George R. R. Martin. Not only has the Jean Cocteau featured some of the most interesting films of the last 100 years, it has evolved into a vital touchstone of community and culture, with a spirit that transcends its distinctive adobe-Deco and glass-block façade. As Martin puts it, “It has a personality in which the theater itself becomes a character in the whole movie experience.” If anyone knows character, it’s Martin. As the author of the immensely popular A Song of Ice and Fire novel series, the Santa Fe resident, who quietly bought the theater in February 2013, is also a consummate movie buff. Film lovers are
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crossing their fingers that he can bring his magic to this venue. “The Cocteau ran for 22 years as a movie theater,” says Martin. “If I am lucky, it will now run another 22 years. That’s my plan.” Built in 1910 as a Dr. Pepper bottling plant, the Cocteau eventually morphed into a movie theater starting in the 1970s. It served as one of the Southwest’s great art house cinemas until its doors shut, seemingly for good, in 2006. The New Mexico Museum of Film leased the building in 2007, a canny move given the state’s long film-production history and the promise of many more movies to come in those heady days of filmmaking incentives. Indeed, between 2007 and 2009, filmmakers shot all or parts of 97 movies in New Mexico. Though not what die-hard cineastes wished for, the museum project at least preserved the Jean Cocteau as a film history icon.
But when the museum’s exhibits never came to fruition, the state shuttered the venue as a cost-saving measure in 2010. As moviegoers fervently continued to recall the Cocteau’s good old days, Martin decided to purchase the theater solely to preserve its art house ambience and return it to the heart of Santa Fe’s cultural scene. After he appointed Santa Fe Film Festival cofounder Jon Bowman as operator, Bowman began updating the building’s interior and technology, including new marquee lighting. Its August 9 reopening featured a screening of Forbidden Planet along with Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus—the first movies to grace the Cocteau’s screen in seven years. When Martin originally moved to Santa Fe in the late 1970s, the Cocteau had just opened as Collective Fantasy, one of the city’s first art house cinemas. There,
OPPOsite: LEFT and lower RIGHT, Jonathan Kahn
The Lights Are Back on at Santa Fe’s Oldest Art House Cinema