Every week, our Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center puts on film and arts programming that rivals the showtimes at the suburban multiplexes. “For and Against Everyone” is the mantra, one that is clear from festivals ranging from vampire culture to female ejaculation. Perhaps they have to stand out this way, or perhaps they just are this way. Whatever the case, we love Rene Broussard and his team of dedicated volunteers that run the venue.
After some renovations last year, it came as a nice surprise to find out that Zeitgeist would be moving its party just a block outside of Orleans Parish and into the St. Bernard portion of St. Claude Avenue, at the old Valiant Theater & Lounge during Mardi Gras season, with a re-open date set for March. The building is bigger, with more seats, more potential for drinks, and more space to get strange.
Taking some time away from preparations, Rene answered some burning questions I had about the new incarnation of this hot spot for cinema, for music, for exhibitions, and for New Orleans:
Bill Arceneaux: How did this move from Oretha Castle Haley Blvd to St. Claude Ave in Old Arabi come about? Were there other locations considered?
Rene Broussard: I have been on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd for the past 19 years and was not really looking to move. I have been very happy there.
People kept telling me I should look at the theatre space on St. Claude and Desire that had been scheduled to be Indywood. It was a great space, but no parking. Still, I was interested until I saw the Valiant Theatre and Lounge.
I go to Gerald’s Donuts often after Zeitgeist closes to eat with my friend Ellis Fortinberry who runs Chalmette Movies. He mentioned that he had seen a for lease sign on a theatre a couple of blocks away on St. Claude so I called the number. Looking at it I knew right away Zeitgeist could never afford a venue this incredible, but the property manager told me that when she told the owners that Zeitgeist was interested in seeing the space, luckily our reputation proceeded us. The owners are the Meraux Charitable Foundation, whose main concern was luckily for me not money, but what tenant would best advance their development and promotion of the Old Arabi Cultural Arts District. When I saw a drawing for St. Bernard Parish and the Meraux Foundations plans for the district I knew Zeitgeist had to move.
Making the decision to move outside of Orleans Parish (by one block) was a hard one. I don’t know if my audience will follow me or be willing to travel across town and across the industrial canal. Luckily the response has been overwhelmingly positive and people seem extremely excited about the new location and the off-street parking. I think this will be the best thing to ever happen to Zeitgeist. The new venue gives us a chance to expand our programming and the Lounge gives us a great opportunity to increase our audiences and our revenues.
BA: The GoFundMe description suggests there will be at least two theater rooms for movie screenings. Is this the plan?
Rene: No. There will be the 125 seat theater where we will screen films daily as well as theater, dance or music performances. Then there is also the Lounge which will have a small stage that can house regular music, spoken word, and comedy events simultaneously while we have events in the theater. There is a door at the end of the bar that leads to the 3 stall men’s room, the 3 stall women’s room and then a thick door to the theatre. That hallway and the soundproofing of the theatre is the big selling point.
BA: The new venue includes a lounge and bar (a leftover from its previous incarnation as The Valiant). How will these elements compliment the cinema and arts that will be showcased? Will fair trade items be maintained on the menu?
Rene: We haven’t begun to consider the menu, but I do want to create a regular Film Community happy hour in the bar to coincide with the resurrection of a monthly Open Screening. There is also a wonderful gallery space in the Lounge. We will host bi-monthly exhibitions.
BA: I’m sure the programming at open will be as incendiary as always but what can we expect come the March re-launch?
Rene: I am just starting to program March. I do already have part of the opening booked:
Thursday, March 7 @ 7:30 pm
Within his compositions for Neslort (and Neslorchestra) New Orleans based trombone player Rick Trolsen brings home all influences from a life spent in the modern jazz, rock and funk era. There is Big Band and Bebop in there, and yes, also Zappa. The music includes symphonic, intricately composed layers. Add to the blender a few Eastern European Folk tunes plus a dash of Circus music. $5.
Thursday, March 7 @ 9:00 pm
GRAND OPENING CONCERT featuring band to be announced