Central Cinema

Central Cinema is a neighborhood moviehouse coming to Knoxville in 2018… and we need YOUR help to get us to opening day!

A unique and locally-oriented alternative to the multiplex, Central Cinema’s single screen at 1205 N Central (next to Time Warp Tea Room in Happy Holler) will serve Knoxville film fans with a year-round slate of movie magic. 

Our regular programming will include classic audience favorites, weekly family matinees, cult cinema showcases and first-run bookings of under-the-radar indies and documentaries. Our specialty screenings will reach out to niche audiences and underserved local communities. We’re eager to work with any group, business, or lone film fanatic that has big ideas for a one-off film screening or event. And we'll keep our tickets & concessions (including a tidy beer selection) priced well below what you're used to paying at the movies.

Central Cinema is a DIY-oriented startup from the creators of the Knoxville Horror Film Fest, Knoxville’s longest-running, most fan-centric film event. It’s been a weird nine years since we first started showing scary movies around town; streaming video options taught people to stay home as corporate cinemas overcompensated to keep profits up. But we’re too passionate about the theatrical experience to let it slip away… and our experience running KHFF has positioned us to do something about it by opening our own place.

Though KHFF has grown every year since its 2009 debut, it’s only ever been self-sustaining financially. So we asked the community for help making our dream a reality, and the response has been overwhelming: film fans from all around the region are into our idea… and if you are too, we hope you'll consider helping us out.

Your contribution to this GoFundMe helps us with operating funds as we get Central Cinema off the ground. We aren't just asking for donations, though... past a certain dollar amount, your gesture of belief in Central Cinema comes with plenty of perks:

Our Preview Club ($40) gets you into special invite-only screenings and open houses as we fine-tune Central Cinema ahead of our public opening. 

Our Annual Membership ($80, or $120 for two) offers members everyday discounts on admission & concession items, access to members-only screenings (incuding Preview Club privileges) and plenty of other perks we'll be coming up with as we go along.

And our Founding Membership ($150) offers two years of membership discounts while keeping you permanently in the loop on exclusive member screenings and more.

We're also now offering Annual Sponsorships ($900) spotlighting your brand's logo during our pre-show video package. Sponsors also enjoy advertising discounts, social media coordination, perks arranging public or private screenings, and (2) Central Cinema Memberships for personal or promotional use. Or might we suggest the All-Time Sponsorship ($7,500), which rewards your upfront generosity with permanent sponsor privileges? (If you'd like either of these options please contact us directly at centralcinemaknox@gmail.com)

And finally, do you have an idea for a great movie screening? Then a Custom Event ($1,000) may be for you! Your contribution entitles you to mastermind a Central Cinema screening of your own design! (Some limitations apply.)

The majority of these arrangements will disappear or go up in price when we close this campaign on opening day, so don't wait!

Help us bring Knoxville movies the way they ought to be!

The original campaign text can be found below:

The past few years have been a boom for life in Knoxville, Tennessee. As the city we love flourishes, there’s just one thing missing: a hub for cinema culture, where audiences can enjoy the moviegoing experience at the same sort of locally-minded venue they choose for their eating, drinking and entertainment needs.


We believe a modest single-screen moviehouse could gain considerable traction in Knoxville’s leisure landscape, and that our chosen location in Happy Holler (just minutes north of downtown) puts us at the heart of a crucial spot in the exciting and organic redevelopment of Near North Knoxville.

And we’re hoping you agree enough to help us make our dream a reality by helping to fund what we’re calling Central Cinema.

Over the past nine years the dreamers behind Central Cinema have produced the annual Knoxville Horror Film Fest, which started with a single packed Pilot Light crowd in 2009 and has since evolved into a weekend-long, nationally-recognized event. Thanks to the festival (which also hosts standalone film events throughout the year) we have experience booking, marketing and presenting branded screenings at venues around Knoxville.

But two questions have always gnawed at us: What can we do to ensure the best possible filmgoing experience for our audience? And how can we put our skills to use celebrating all sorts of different movies alongside the scary ones?

And the answer is building our own movie theater, and inviting all of you to join us.

We have the contacts, the experience, and the technical know-how to operate the sort of independent theater our community deserves; we have the relationships with local audiences, media and businesses to make it a success. But after years of growing the Knoxville Horror Film Fest on a shoestring budget & DIY ethos, the one thing we lack is the money.

We’ll get to that, but first a little persuasive daydreaming!


The Films
Naturally, Central Cinema isn’t looking to compete directly with Regal’s downtown Riviera, or our treasured arthouse Downtown West 8. (DTW8 has been host to horrorfest’s most memorable screenings, and our festival’s producer and director probably sold you tickets there as college students in the early 00’s.)

Instead of the latest blockbuster or arthouse fare, our programming will focus heavily on what are called “repertory” films, highlighting classics from every era. This means edgy midnight movies, family matinees, themed film series, high-demand audience favorites, niche reissues or even creative counter-programming to current box office contenders. And contemporary film buffs can be assured we also plan to book the sort of current-release independent, foreign and documentary films that might otherwise go un-shown in the area.

 We believe cinema was meant to be a communal experience, and that’s where the faith in our audience comes in: we believe that an independent cinema built by and for film lovers counts as a novel experience in 2017. We know plenty of people who will drive hours to catch a screening at the Belcourt or Atlanta’s Plaza Theatre; with Central Cinema, those same unique offerings could be accessible to Knoxvillians as an after-dinner whim.

The Community
Still, our standalone programming plan just makes us a standard revival house; positioning ourselves a neighborhood cinema is arguably the more important part of the process. Here’s what that means to us: we want to help celebrate our community in any way we can, and the obvious way to achieve that is to make our space available for custom screening opportunities.

In a conventional sense this means private auditorium rentals; with our general screening schedule initially spanning only Friday through Sunday, we will be be able to schedule slots throughout the work week where clubs or businesses can use our facility for meetings, parties or test screenings.

But we’re much more excited about the opportunity to facilitate partnered screenings, where we can put our space and booking capabilities in the service of local communities, organizations or even individuals who want to host a public film event. This could be as simple as covering film rental fees in order to see a favorite film on the big screen, but we also plan to arrange screenings of more consequence, whether it’s a benefit event, the gala premiere of a self-produced film, or a chance for one of Knoxville’s minority communities to share in watching its life and culture reflected onscreen in a way the multiplex doesn’t offer.

And our dedication to this idea — coupled with the modest operation detailed below — means we can make these sorts of screenings work for prices that will leave everyone happy. We want to assert that the full cinematic experience is powerful and vital, and an ongoing collaboration with the community will let us express that in ways we could never come up with on our own.

The Setup
We could be putting on these screenings at any number of venues around Knoxville, just as Knoxville Horror Film Fest has over the past decade. But showing a film is more than just putting it up on a screen, and Central Cinema is intent on offering a comfortable and thoughtful moviegoing environment.

We have an agreement to lease 1205 N Central, located beside the Time Warp Tea Room and across from Central Flats & Taps in the Happy Holler district. The space was most recently home to the Taoist Tai Chi Society, but actually has a long history as a movie theater. Between 1916 and the mid-fifties the theater served the Happy Holler area (then considered a “suburb”) under various names: the Picto, the Central, the Liberty, the Cameo, the Center. Its longest incarnation, as the Joy Theatre (pictured below), lasted from 1935 to 1948. Though practical and financial concerns prevent us from restoring it to the grand moviehouse it once was, we are proud of and excited about the building’s history, and look forward to bringing cinema back to the area that has become a shining light in North Knoxville’s current redevelopment.

Our auditorium will be custom-built from the existing studio area, and offer a digital projection and audio system designed to our high personal standards. Our current plan is to offer roughly 80 auditorium seats (with the potential for expansion) while also exploring options for the sort of non-traditional seating options often found in startup cinemas of our size. We’ll be putting a lot of work into ensuring a filmgoing experience that will meet the expectations of the seasoned film fans at the center of our target audience.

As for the concession stand, we’ll offer everything you'd expect, but a little better: fresh popcorn topped with real butter, a novel selection of sodas and snacks, and both craft and budget-conscious beer options. (We also hope to have coffee and a cereal bar available for our family matinee series.) And our current plan allows for an intimate lounge and deck area where patrons are encouraged to come early for a drink or stick around after the show to discuss what they’ve seen.

Just as much of our plan for Central Cinema is about what we won’t do. We won’t leave the lights on when the movie is starting. We won’t let the guy behind you sit there quizzing his wife on plot points. We won’t allow the kid in front of you live-tweet the movie. We won’t try to upsell you on combos or a more expensive showing of your film. We won’t leverage every last bit of wall and screen space for commercialized purposes. We won’t send in an usher to stroll around with one of those tiny lightsabers halfway through the film. All that stuff drives us bonkers.

And in line with all of that, we won’t cheapen your experience by charging insulting prices. We want every trip to Central Cinema to be special… and that can’t happen if our customers don’t walk away feeling like they got a good deal. Our modest setup and relatively low overhead costs will allow us to break with rising multiplex prices and position Central Cinema as cost-conscious alternative when it’s time for a night out at the movies.

We can make Central Cinema a success, and grow it into something that could become a local institution. But like our film festival, the project is a labor of love rooted in resourcefulness rather than resources. So we are turning to the people we hope to serve, so many of whom have expressed confidence or excitement in our idea, and asking them for whatever help they can offer.

We will spend the rest of this year raising funds and converting the space to fit our needs, and hope to open in early 2018. If enough people believe in this idea, and act on it by backing or sharing our campaign, their generosity will be directly responsible for making it a reality. And starting out with minimal debt will make it all the easier to create a lasting film culture destination.
And here’s what you can do to help Central Cinema happen:

DONATE TO THIS CAMPAIGN! We accept and deeply appreciate donations of any amount; every cent will go toward making Central Cinema a reality. But we’ve also got some specific rewards: $40 or more will get you on our email invitation list for free test screenings as we fine-tune the theater during a soft opening period; $80 or more gets you a one-year Central Cinema membership (featuring ticket & popcorn discounts plus special perks including members-only screening invites); $150 or more gets you “Founding Member” status, with two years of member discount perks and lifetime access to member invites;  $1000 will allow you or your group/business to pre-reserve our space for a future event of your design; and $1500 gets your business advertising space in Central Cinema's pre-show reel for our first full year of business.

SPREAD THE WORD! Whether or not you want to give us money, sharing our crowdfunding campaign with other potential contributors is nearly as much help! You can also follow our project (and encourage others as well) on Facebook and Twitter

OFFER YOUR HELP! Are you enthusiastic about our idea and have a resource/skill that will make it cheaper or easier to achieve? Let's talk!

MAKE PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS! While we hope Central Cinema will find success and even someday profitability, our motive for now is simply to break even in the process of proving there’s a market for our service. This makes us an odd fit for standard investment, but we are open to any partnership or financing proposals that don’t compromise the core concept. If you or someone you represent may have interest in helping fund our project in exchange for more than crowdfunding perks please contact.


We’ll be using money from this campaign to make careful steps forward in the months to come and update our backers regularly on the project’s progress. We will also continue to seek other sources of funding, where your generosity counts for double as we show off an enthusiastic audience-to-be. So we intend to make this happen no matter what the final tally is here.

But if it becomes apparent at any point that we can’t move forward with the project, we will reach out to higher-end backers about potential refunds while directing the remaining money to local causes, the selection of which will involve input from our backers.

If you have any questions about any of this, please get in touch with us! And if you've read this far, wow, thanks!


Donations ()

  • Benjamin Auerbach 
    • $120 
    • 6 mos
  • Kevin Lonano 
    • $200 
    • 15 mos
  • Julian Spence 
    • $80 
    • 18 mos
  • Nathan Helton 
    • $40 
    • 19 mos
  • Miles Crowther 
    • $150 
    • 19 mos
See all


William Mahaffey 
Knoxville, TN
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