By producing weekly multimedia screenings featuring dozens of performers, this cinephilic collective makes the calm act of seeing a film into a wild spectacle.
Let’s face it: In New York City, going to the movies can be an uninspired way to spend an evening. Enter Jay Rinksy, the founder, creative director, producer, writer, and community leader of the immersive film/music/performance mashup that’s redefining how movies can be experienced: Little Cinema.
Living in a city that is lacking interesting live screen–based art forms, and being part of a scene in which seeing only abstract visuals flash behind a performer is the norm, Rinksy, who has a background in visual arts, was inspired to merge his passions to create the must-see weekly event.
“[I want to] offer people an alternative form of entertainment that is a fusion of all the things I love: film, circus, theater, and live music,” Rinksy says.
And that’s what he does.
Now, after 35 sold-out shows and having been voted “Best of New York” in New York magazine in 2017, it’s clear that Little Cinema has carved out a name for itself not only in the art world of Bushwick, but in New York culture writ large, which influences the theater world as a whole.
Little Cinema has shown movies like The Wizard of Oz, The Craft, Labyrinth, The Fifth Element, and Edward Scissorhands, bringing each one beautifully to life with interactive performances, film manipulation, and other mixed-in elements. What makes this spectacle so unique is Rinksy’s premise of having performers respond to what the characters are doing on the screen.
During a Little Cinema performance, there is no division between audience and performers. Each evening incorporates 30 to 40 interactive elements, like musicians, aerialists, dancers, actors, magicians, and props. The film does not simply run; there are effects and deviations to the movie that emphasize key scenes and tell the film’s story in a whole new way.
Rinksy, who was born in Israel and grew up in Australia, spent years building up his cinema act. After landing in New York four years ago, he kept going on the solo track until he met other artists and innovative thinkers in the Bushwick art scene who provided him with an iconic, funky venue that became home for his solo act. Today, Little Cinema has evolved into a 40-person collaborative experience.
The first Little Cinema came about almost by accident: It was thrown together in less than 24 hours the week David Bowie died, as a tribute to the legend.
The interactive screening of Labyrinth, which sold out right away, was wildly successful and well received, and the crew realized this could actually work. So Rinksy committed to producing Little Cinema once a week for as long as he could. That’s just one week to choose a film, clear the rights to show it, book the talent, work out their acts, and put the entire show together. It’s perfectly insane, but it just keeps working.
What’s even more impressive than the impossible-seeming feat of putting an entire show together each week is the beautiful and loyal community Little Cinema has fostered. The event has brought together dozens of creative collaborators who might never have otherwise met. “That’s part of the magic,” says Rinksy. “In piecing these together, it’s definitely forming a lot of communities and connections and relationships that aren’t necessarily natural. We’ve had chefs, aerialists, and musicians all figuring out how to work together.”
Beyond the number of creatives involved in production, the audience members have become part of the family too, rather than just spectators. There are people who have never missed a show, others who invite friends who become loyal engagers, and still others who travel from across the world to catch a performance. And because Rinksy and the team know they have a strong fan base, they are even more motivated to make every show bigger and better than the last.
Lately the crew has moved out into bigger and more unusual venues, and there is talk about collaborating with ever-more established musicians and dance companies. Little Cinema is poised to keep on expanding, further impressing its followers and making an even bigger impact on New York City culture and beyond.
Keep up with Little Cinema and never miss a screening.
To discover more distinctive culture, try
Top photo by Kamila Harris, others by Studio Madness; all courtesy of Little Cinema