SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Whether you’re looking for the latest Oscar-nominated movies, an independent new release, or a cult classic, the Sioux Falls State Theater likely has the movie for you. In 2022 alone, the theater screened 56 different films according to executive director Allison Weiland.
“When it comes to programming, we make sure that every week we have something for everyone,” Weiland said. “We like to bring new releases when possible, but also make sure what’s going on in our community – Is there a St. Patrick’s Day parade or a First Friday event? Something we can complete with our programming.
The theater reopened in 2019 after being closed for nearly thirty years and screened a diverse selection of films each week in the newly renovated space. While moviegoers can enjoy reclining seats, vintage decor, and a beer with their movie, what keeps them coming back is the variety of movies the theater puts on each week.
“A lot of them just want to come check it out, sometimes an old movie they like,” Weiland said. “They want to experience it as a family, show it to their children or come with their parents.”
What sets the theater apart from others in the city are the films shown. This includes a mix of older cinema such as music sound, SpartacusWhere Some like it hot and new independent films like Lamb, BelfastWhere Parallel mothers. It’s programming that most viewers won’t find anywhere else.
“It’s one of the main things about our mission is to bring movies that wouldn’t typically be shown in Sioux Falls,” Weiland said.
But how can such a small, single-screen room get such a large collection of movies?
According to chief executive Steven Dahlmeier, it’s a combination of working with bookers in Hollywood who act as go-betweens for theater and major studios like Disney and Warner Bros while working directly with movie studios and distributors like A24. and Neon to acquire independent films for screenings. It’s about proving to distributors that it’s worth bringing their film to Sioux Falls.
“We like to surprise them with what Sioux Falls is going to come out and see,” Dahlmeier said. “So, drive my car was a great example of that, we just had an overwhelming response to that.
drive my car is an Oscar-nominated three-hour Japanese adaptation of a short story by Haruki Murakami. The film did not play anywhere else in Sioux Falls, but Weiland and Dahlmeier said it did well at the State Theater.
“People who wouldn’t usually go in a foreign language, a 3 hour film [are] come here and have a good time and have an experience,” Weiland said.
The theater often looks to other theaters in town to see what films they are showing and then determines if certain films will suit their clientele. When large theaters in Sioux Falls drop smaller, independent projects, it can give the theater some leverage to bring it downtown so those films can still be screened in town. Such was the case for the theater which presented the Oscar-nominated dark Norwegian romantic comedy, The worst person in the world.
“They couldn’t have seen in town before, and it’s such a fantastic movie,” Dahlmeier said. Now, he adds, people won’t always have to travel to Minneapolis or Omaha to see an independent cinema or wait for those movies to hit streaming apps.
Wes Anderson’s last movie, The French Dispatch, had a long run at other theaters in the city but did not find large audiences like other films released last fall. But Dahlmeier worked with the distributor to bring the film back to Sioux Falls for a run at the State Theater. Dahlmeier said the theater and the distributor were blown away by the number of people who bought tickets.
Another area that has seen success at the State Theater has been the late night series. Dahlmeier recalls the screening of the 1977 Japanese horror film, lodge, as one of the State Theater’s most memorable performances. At the start of the screening, he asked the audience of around 100 people who had seen the film; only about fifteen raised their hands.
If indie cinema isn’t your thing, the theater also offers family movies every week as well as older films that many people have never seen in a theater setting.
“We really want to try to bring classics to the State Theater,” Weiland said. “A lot of times the only times people saw them was on TV interrupted by commercials or the edited version. So it’s really wonderful to see, say, Marilyn Monroe on the big screen.
Dahlmeier and Weiland both want to encourage people to go to the theatre. This weekend, the theater presents 10 times Oscar nominees Dunesfamily favorite Remember the titans80s cult classic Pretty in pinkand Spartacus as part of Stanley Kubrick’s Directors Series.
“We put a lot into our films,” Dahlmeier said. “We are very passionate about making sure your experience here is top-notch.”