It was a sellout opening weekend for the Film Lab, a new cocktail bar and independant movie theater taking shape in Hamtramck. The upstart microcinema opened its doors to the public on October 19, with international movies and a mixture of campy and classic horror films.
Lara Sfire, founder of filmmaking collective Film Shop Detroit, and Josh Gardner, operator non-profit film pop-up Cinema Lamont, are developing the new theater, which will eventually span two stories inside the Post 1 P.L.A.V. building. Members of the Polish Legion of American Veterans stopped by during the Film Lab’s opening preview last week to see how the space had transformed, Gardner tells Eater.
The Film Lab currently occupies 1,600-square-feet on the first floor of the building, with one screen hooked up to 7.1 surround sound and around 50 seats. The partners are using the original marble bar from the veterans hall, which dates back to the 1920s. P.L.A.V. members added a wooden bartop sometime in the ‘60s. The Film Lab preserved much of the original character of the space including the dreamy diamond-shaped wood paneling. The room features new light fixtures and a few antique schoolhouse lights rescued from other parts of the building. Gardner and Sfire rounded out the space with vintage furniture.
The partners are currently in the process of developing funding for the larger second floor, which houses a stage that once used for community events and political rallies. The Film Lab recently received a $100,000 award from the Knight Arts Challenge to renovate the space, adding two sound-proof screening rooms with stadium-style seating. Sfire estimates that the second floor will open within the next year and a half. By opening the downstairs, the pair hope to “start building a community and showing movies, while we work on the fundraising for upstairs,” Gardner says.
The Film Lab’s menu features fresh popcorn and short list of beer, wine, and cocktails. Customers can find options like a bourbon-banana soda on draft for $8 and movie-themed drinks like the Dead Ringers with David Nicholson bourbon, maple, Byrrh Quinquina, Angostura bitters, and rosemary. There’s also non-alcoholic Top Chico for film buffs who want to watch a movie sober.
With screenings of The Wicker Man, Audition, and The Hunger, Film Lab’s October debut has featured a horror-heavy lineup. Gardner says that each month, the screenings will follow a theme. In November, the partners plan to show movies featuring actor Antonio Banderas and director Pedro Almodóvar. Still, fans of horror movies can count on the Film Lab’s Bloody Sunday matinees at 1 p.m. with $6 bloody marys. Gardner says they’re in talks with pop-ups to potentially host brunch, too.
Photographer Michelle Gerard took a tour of the completed first floor of the Film Lab during its inaugural week in Hamtramck. Take a tour of the theater in the gallery below.