Kool Kat of the Week: Brandt Gully Spooks it up with a Fright Nights Film Series Killing it through Halloween at The Springs Cinema & Taphouse

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Photo by the Marietta Daily Journal

 

 

Brandt Gully, owner and operator of The Springs Cinema & Taphouse located in Sandy Springs, GA, delivers a haunting month of creepy cinema during their Fright Nights film series, beginning Wednesday, Sept. 21st through Halloween! Not only will you have a chance to experience a killer line-up of chilling crowd favorites (NOSFERATU anyone!?) on the big screen, but you’ll also get to experience these films in special ways, including live-accompaniment and a Q&A event with cult classic star, Catherine Mary Stewart! If you’re looking to add to your spooktacular Halloween schedule, you’ll definitely want to creep on over to The Springs, Sept. 21 – Oct. 31!

ATLRetro caught up with Brandt to chat about the Fright Nights film series, what it’s like to delve deep into the business of independent movie houses, and the importance of catering to the community, no matter what line of work you’re in. While you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A, why not take a peek at the fangtastic Fright Nights line-up, here!

ATLRetro: ‘Tis the season for monsters and spooky things and what better way to celebrate than to gather in a movie theatre, perched on the edge of our seats, scarfing down popcorn spooked out of our wits?! We can’t wait for The Springs’ Fright Nights Film series! Can you tell us a little about this film retrospective?

photo by Jarrod Cecil

Brandt Gully: Fright Nights is our new horror-focused series that features nine different classics through Halloween and then will continue on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. In this first ‘spooky season’ installment, we are trying a little bit of everything ranging from a 1920s silent film classic up through 80s and 90s favorites and even a couple of offerings for kids. We are even mixing in different types of movie experiences along with the screenings—a live music experience with The Invincible Czars performing their score alongside NOSFERATU (1922), a double-feature at our Springs Drive-In where we set up a 50-foot screen in our parking lot, and capped it all off with a Halloween night screening of BEETLEJUICE (1988) in our “interactive film style” concept that we call Movie Parties. We are throwing a lot of different things at our customers during this series to see what they like so that they can help guide us with future offerings. And lastly, our series will be hosted each week by our friend Sunny Midnight, who is well known in the local film and convention community for her love and work with horror and sci-fi films.

What a killer line-up! The movie selection for this series includes classics like NOSFERATU, ‘80s cult horror with NIGHT OF THE COMET, and 90s fright favorite, SCREAM. Can you tell us about some of the special events you have lined up with a few of the screenings, including a special appearance by Catherine Mary Stewart?

While we are super excited just to be screening these upcoming horror films, we really want to offer more to our true film lovers out there with interactive movie experiences. The first couple that we have planned are going to be a lot of fun. It’s hard to find a more classic horror film than NOSFERATU, which turned 100 years old this year. The Invincible Czars out of Austin, TX have been making and performing their own soundtracks or scores to classic silent films for years, and they’re touring the US over the next several weeks doing NOSFERATU at film festivals and arthouse and indie cinemas like ours. They’ll be live and on stage in front of our screen on Friday, October 7th, accompanying the film as they rock their score with a five-member ensemble using violin, flute, bass clarinet, electric guitar, bass, piano, organ, glockenspiel, music box, drums, percussion, samples and loops. It will be a fun experience to see this movie in a whole new way.

We are also excited that Catherine Mary Stewart will be visiting us on October 14th and 15th for our screenings of NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984) and THE LAST STARFIGHTER (1984). Those are two iconic 80s films, and it will be a lot of fun to have her there to engage with her fans with photos and autographs as well as do some Q&A after the screenings.

Were there any films you wanted to include but couldn’t?

We originally had Felissa Rose scheduled for a live appearance for a screening of SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983), but she ended up having a filming conflict and will plan on visiting us in January or February 2023.

Can you tell our readers what it takes to put on this type of film series and what makes Fright Nights different from others around the Atlanta area?

Doing a curated series or unique screenings is a lot of work, which is why most theaters don’t do it. Our industry has gotten a bit lazy in recent years and just tends to rely on whatever Hollywood spoon feeds us to pass along to the customers. We saw what can happen with that strategy over the past couple of years when film production was halted and new releases were delayed, so we are committed to doing the work and providing cinema lovers with product we like and believe they will as well. Our goal is to make this an ongoing series, where we have enough demand to offer a weekly horror screening. In this first ‘spooky season’ installment, we are trying a little bit of everything ranging from a 1920s silent film classic up through 80s and 90s favorites and even a couple of offerings for kids. We are even mixing in different types of movie experiences in this series with traditional screenings, a live music experience with The Invincible Czars performing their score alongside NOSFERATU, a double feature at our Springs Drive-In where we set up a 50’ screen in our parking lot, and capped off with a Halloween night screening of BEETLEJUICE in our interactive film style concept that we call Movie Parties. We are throwing a lot of different things at our customers during this series to see what they like so that they can help guide us with future offerings. Since the day we opened our theater 5 years ago, it’s always been important to me to specifically tailor the experience at The Springs to our community and customers, whether it’s the film programming, the kitchen menu, or the offerings at our bar. We think listening to our customers is key to our success, and this Fright Night series is no exception.

Like indie films, indie theatres are the hidden gems in cities across the country. What are the main differences when it comes to movie-going experiences, etc. compared to your larger corporate competitors?

I like to tell our Springs team that we need to show our customers that we are trying harder than our local competitors. We definitely are, but it’s important that the customers see the result of that extra effort. I can’t speak for everyone, but I would choose a local restaurant or bar all day vs. a national chain, as long as it’s done well. I don’t think cinemas should be any different. We went to great lengths when we renovated our place and how we operate it to make sure people know we are different than the others. Even with the design, I wanted a new customer to walk in the doors and immediately see that we aren’t a chain and that this place was built and run with them specifically in mind. Our bar is a great example of this. Plenty of movie theaters have a bar these days, but it’s usually an afterthought where some corporate office across the country decided that every one of its locations should feature the same 8 beverages to meet all customer needs. I couldn’t disagree more, and we spend a ton of time listening to customers and throwing options at them and now have 18 lines of craft beer, over 60 bourbons and 20+ wines. We started with something way smaller than that but continue to evolve to make sure we are providing an ideal experience for our customers.

It’s every movie kid’s dream to own their own theatre. Is there a secret origin story on how you got hooked on movies, making you want to run your own movie house? And how were you able to make this dream come true?

I’ve been a movie lover my entire life and have so many memories from my local childhood cinema, whether it was the first movie I saw with my dad, or sneaking in to see my first rated R movie (which we don’t encourage!!!) or my first date at the movies (TOP GUN). With that being said, I can’t say that it was my dream to own and operate a place, but things have a way of working out. My entire career has been in the finance world, but in and around movies. I’ve been in thousands of theaters over my 25+ year career, but it wasn’t until 2017 that I decided to make a drastic career move and buy this place. It’s a random journey and story, but it primarily revolves around my family. My oldest of 3 daughters was diagnosed with cancer in 2017 and spent most of the next 18 months in the children’s hospital fighting a terminal diagnosis. While at the hospital, I was surrounded by so many people that made my life better on a daily basis by doing their jobs with passion. That was a huge part of helping my daughter defy the odds and be a healthy young lady today, and I realized at that point that I needed to rethink my career and find something where I could get involved with the community. It’s too late to become a doctor or nurse like them and I’d be a terrible fireman or policeman, so I determined that the closest thing to what I knew was the movie business. While I won’t pretend to have the same impact as those that saved my daughter’s life, I do have the opportunity on a daily basis to be plugged into the community and help people escape the outside world for 2-3 hours and be entertained. We also do a lot of work with local schools, charities, and businesses, and it’s been a complete joy to play a small part in brightening up our community.

The Springs has been described as “fun” and “innovative.” Can you tell our readers why they should make their way to Sandy Springs to check you all out?

We will always try new things to see what gives our customers a great experience. You’ll be hard pressed to find a theater that has more diverse content; just this past month we showed films in 3 different languages, a silent film, screenings of locally made indie films, live sporting events on the big screen, retro movies at our parking lot drive-in, numerous indie studio selections, and of course the Hollywood blockbusters. If you pair that with the fact that we have a full kitchen menu, a bar with over 150 adult beverages to choose from, live music on our patio on weekends, and a host of private parties and events weekly, you’ll see that we have something for everyone.

I’m sure you watch an astounding number of films annually. What trends and directors are pushing the envelope now, in your opinion? A few film recommendations for our readers?

That’s a tough one, as I do get to see so many. I happen to love most genres, but I tend to get most excited about a lot of the indie releases that don’t get a ton of press. Certainly, the blockbusters pay most of the bills, but I always look forward to releases from some of the top indie distributors like A24 and Neon. They rarely miss in my opinion. This year’s upcoming films I’m most excited about would probably be Damian Chazelle’s BABYLON and Spielberg’s THE FABELMANS, as those guys never miss and both center around the film industry. As for overall trends with the industry, I know there is a lot of fatigue over so many comic book movies. I think some of that criticism is fair, as Hollywood does tend to milk concepts as long as they can. But I think Hollywood also does a good job of adapting based on what sells, and the success of TOP GUN: MAVERICK (2022) sent a very loud message in my opinion. People of all ages absolutely loved that movie because it was well done, had Hollywood stars, had zero social or political agenda, and was simply a fun experience that can’t be replicated at home on a small TV or on a tablet. There are consistently great films with great performances being made, but I do think we need more fun and mindless films as well similar to what we grew up on.

Film and nostalgia go hand in hand, and we see that The Springs hosts many retro film series as well as drawing crowds during your retro drive-in screenings, which of course is right down our alley. What is it about the classics that keep folks coming back for more?

People sometimes just want to escape and have fun while watching a film. We don’t always have to explore complex issues or stories presented by filmmakers, as sometimes it’s enough to just laugh or scream or tear up. There are so many retro films that elicit those emotions, and people also enjoy reconnecting with these films where they may have great memories.

 

All photos courtesy of Brandt Gully and used with permission.

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