Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY to Build a New Theater

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By: Amadi Taylor

Back at the 2010 Sundance Film festival, Ava DuVernay launched a distribution company, ARRAY. Now the company is a multimedia empire, that contains distribution, arts, and advocacy collective ARRAY, post-production facilities and the ‘Queen Sugar’ writers’ room.

 When DuVernay launched ARRAY (then known as the African American Film Festival Releasing Movement, or AFFRM), her goal was to put movies by black filmmakers (including her debut, “I Will Follow”) in front of audiences. Since then, ARRAY has released 22 titles — many of which, without ARRAY, might never have seen theaters. Before its acquisition of Andrew Dosunmu’s “Restless City,” the film sat on the shelf for over a year after its 2011 Sundance Film Festival premiere.

 According to Indiewire, the next step is a state-of-the-art, 50-seat theater that will screen the six ARRAY titles it plans to release this year and work by local artists, and will be made available for rental. 

 The ARRAY library is an eclectic selection of independent films, many of which were directed by women and/or people of color, united by singular visions and themes of social justice — a template that mainstream distributors often dismiss out of hand. For DuVernay, who worked as a movie marketer and publicist for more than 14 years, this represented an opportunity.

 “It’s about not only ownership, but also access,” ARRAY VP Tilane Jones said, “We are really trying to honor the theatrical tradition, so our audience has access to work they may not see elsewhere, effectively changing the mindset of what they believe should or should not be on the big screen.”

 Even as DuVernay moves into the DC Universe with her next film, “The New Gods,” ARRAY’s plans remain firmly grassrooted. Last year, it partnered with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and producer Dan Lin to launch the Evolve Entertainment Fund, which provides promotion, grants, and gap financing for communities historically excluded from the entertainment industry.

 And nonprofit arm ARRAY Alliance plans to create grants for African American, Latino and Asian American film festivals, societies and clubs, as well as support the screenings, curriculum, and teacher training that will help young audiences learn the value of art, independent film, and social justice.