A/perture Cinema: A Winston-Salem Arthouse

Local film theater hosts renowned Sundance Film Festival to connect with the greater community


Courtesy of Wake Forest

A/perture Cinema is located in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem and works to bring the local community together through the art of cinema.

Sophia Marcheli, Staff Writer

Tucked in next to Jeffrey Adams and across from Mellow Mushroom, the cozy, four-theater A/perture Cinema recently became one of only seven local film theaters across the United States to host the well renowned Sundance Film Festival.

After starting the cinema in 2010, Executive Creator and one-time Winston-Salem native Lawren Desai worked to bring people into the world of arthouse cinema. 

Rashad Little, a board member at A/perture, spoke about the community feel and the importance of the showing, as well as the city’s connection to the cinema.

“Being a part of this community, any time you say film, I think being a part of this community is kind of crazy because it’s a global community but it’s also like a local community,” Little said.

The location of A/perture Cinema is also significant as it is in the heart of downtown on Fourth Street near the Stevens Center.

“The buzz right there in the middle of the city is just a great concentration of people,” Little said. “ I think that location gets every facet of the community from old to young, to different races and populations and genders and all these different things.” 

The pull towards this film festival hosted at A/perture was, in part, due to COVID-19. Desai noted that the festival being hosted at the smaller U.S theaters was the only way the Sundance films could be screened in person.

When looking to find local film cinemas to host their festival, A/perture not only offered the southern presence Sundance wanted but demonstrated quality cinema. 

“With Sundance it was just the quality of our programming,” Desai said. “You look at what’s on screen in bigger cities and oftentimes we have films that they’re not even playing.”

Little also spoke to the importance of bringing the Sundance Film Festival to Winston-Salem. 

“When she [Desai] told us about that opportunity, I was obviously excited about it because when you have a breath of fresh air with independent films and being in that community and being able to show those films I think it’s always an exciting time for the city,” Little said. “We worked hard to try to bring people here into the world of arthouse cinema. I think Sundance recognized that.” 

Karen Absher, a staff member at A/perture, was also able to participate in the film festival.

“Sundance is a name you hear a lot and see a lot, but I never had a chance to see those films until we were able to show them here,” Absher said. “It gave you a chance to see things here you wouldn’t get a chance to see anywhere else.” 

Absher was initially drawn to the A/perture Cinema and its community connection despite having no background in theater or cinema. 

“What drew me to this cinema was how community based it is. The Winston-Salem community is very close and there really is a good connection between us and them.”

Not only was the Sundance Film Festival a draw for the Winston-Salem community, but it also managed to bring in audiences from around the United States as well.

“The best thing about it was we had several people come from out of the state even. They treated it like they were going to Sundance and they stayed overnight in hotels,” Desai said. “If you’re a film lover, Sundance is huge and I think people are willing to travel for it.” 

In order to support the company’s continued growth and growing popularity, the Arts Council of Winston-Salem & Forsyth County recently gave a $10,000 grant to A/Perture.