Harlem, N.Y., April 28, 2020 — ImageNation, the innovative Harlem-based business primarily dedicated to developing cinemas and audiences for independent films about the global Black experience is proud to announce new programs presented through its virtual cinema, www.SolCinemaCafe.com. On Wednesday, April 29, the group will launch “Lunch Break,” a talk series about cinema, culture, and community, followed by a two-week run of the indie film Phoenix, Oregon on May 1.
ImageNation founder Moikgantsi Kgama and her partner Gregory Gates were in the midst of renovations to open the Sōl Cinema Cafe, a click and mortar business in New York City’s Central Harlem community, when the COVID-19 pandemic brought their plans to a halt. Designed to leverage both online and offline customers, the Sōl Cinema Cafe is a coffee shop by day, and cinema by night, complemented by a website that offers online ticket sales, advance concessions orders, virtual talk backs, and streaming. The duo planned to launch the brick and mortar first, while gradually cultivating the online platform. When COVID-19 hit the USA, ultimately triggering a statewide construction stop-work-order in New York City, they were forced to stop renovations on the cinema-eatery, and focus on the digital side of the business. To progress at a time of uncertainty, they are offering programs that were originally slated for the brick and mortar space, through virtual means.
"Initially, we felt derailed by the pandemic. But we soon realized that the pause in construction gave us the space to focus on implementing the digital aspect of our business and fundraising,” said Moikgantsi Kgama, founder of ImageNation and CEO of the Sōl Cinema Cafe. “We’re also taking this opportunity to expand the brand offerings a bit, by experimenting with more mainstream content.”
“When I read about the film, I was taken by the can-do spirit of the filmmakers,” said Gregory Gates, Executive Producer of ImageNation and COO of the Sōl Cinema Cafe. “And then, I watched the film, and fell in love. Phoenix, Oregon is the kind of film people of all backgrounds will love,” he exclaimed. “It’s an inspiring story about dreams, perseverance…and pizza!”
Phoenix, Oregon will be followed by David Weathersby’s, Thee Debauchery Ball, a documentary on Chicago’s Black BDSM house music party. The film will be complemented with 14-nights of online mini Debauchery Ball parties w/ house music DJ’s playing on Instagram, where participants will be encouraged to #BeDebaucherous and post videos and pics to them dancing. Reflecting the brick and mortar experience, all films at the virtual Sōl Cinema Cafe will offer food and beverage pairing suggestions.
On Wednesday, April 29th, the Sōl Cinema Cafe will launch its “Lunch Break” afternoon talk series, with “The State of Independent Film: In the wake of COVID19”. Initially designed to draw patrons into the Harlem venue for lunch, the online version will bring people to the virtual Sōl Cinema Cafe via FaceBook Live. Panelists for Wednesday’s event include: Wendy Lidell, SVP, Theatrical Distribution & Acquisitions, Kino Lorber; Gina Duncan, Vice President of Film and Strategic Programming at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; Anne Lundgren, Producer, Phoenix, Oregon; and actor Jesse Borrego, co-star of Phoenix, Oregon.
The goal of these online programs is to give patrons a taste of what they’ll experience at the brick and mortar venue, raise funds, and build a customer base for the click and mortar business.
Phoenix, Oregon can be purchased starting Wednesday, April 29, at www.SolCinemaCafe.com, and a portion of the sales support the opening of the Harlem venue.
Patrons can join LUNCH BREAK on Wednesday, April 29th at 12noon, for free at FaceBook.com/SolCinemaCafe/Live.
Funds are still being raised to complete renovations, pay rent arrears incurred to due COVID-19, and provide operating reserves for the Sōl Cinema Cafe. Supporters can invest as little as $100 and earn a revenue share of the business through Mainvest.com at https://mainvest.com/b/sol-cinema-cafe-new-york. Or, folks can participate in the seat-naming campaign at http://www.imagenation.us/name-a-seat.
A recent recipient of Ava Duvernay’s ARRAY Grant, ImageNation Cinema Foundation is an innovative Harlem-based non-profit created to develop cinemas and audiences for independent films and music, that depict the global Black experience. ImageNation's goal is to empower Black communities by presenting a variety of public programs that foster media equity, media literacy, solidarity, cross-cultural exchange and highlight the humanity of Pan-African people worldwide.
Led by Moikgantsi Kgama (Founder & Executive Director) and her husband Gregory Gates (Executive Producer), ImageNation has hosted film screenings, live music performances and other cultural events for more than 200,000 people worldwide since its inception. ImageNation is a founding partner in ARRAY, a national film distribution collective, founded by Ava DuVernay. ImageNation has presented internationally in South Africa, Scotland and Canada and domestically at Harvard University, MASS MOCA, Lincoln Center and in Dallas, TX, Los Angeles, CA, Baltimore, MD, Chicago, Ill, Indianapolis, IN, and Washington DC. Programs have featured appearances by luminaries such as Spike Lee, Lee Daniels, Ava DuVernay, Stanley Nelson, Ruby Dee, Erykah Badu, Chuck D, Raoul Peck, India. Arie and many others. In line with its commitment to Black cinema, ImageNation’s RAW SPACE, will be developed into the Sōl Cinema Cafe, a boutique cinema highlighting global Black film and culture.