Fort Worth’s newest art-house theater has a dual purpose: showcase independent cinema and provide a safe place for people to engage in civil discourse.
Jimmy Sweeney, the founder of The Grand Berry Theater, said the idea came to him during his time at TCU.
“I came out to Fort Worth and just didn’t have the avenue to keep seeing the movies that I was accustomed to seeing,” he said. “We want to be a safe place where people who think differently, look differently, act differently can come and watch the same thing.”
Sweeney designed an art-house theater that highlights independent films because of their ability to actively engage the viewer.
“Fort Worth hasn’t had an art house in a long time, and art houses are really important voices in communities where they’re thriving; they have the opportunity to display films and events that are fun but also challenging,” said Sweeney.
“The Grand Berry Theater was built with the idea in mind of bringing people together with cinema. I believe they’re doing that judging from my experience.”Craig Borders, a frequent moviegoer
Video by Kai Grady and photos by Jack Wallace
The theater hosts a number of events through its Film Club membership.
“The goal of it is to get a consistent group of people coming and watching and talking about movies together,” Sweeney said. “It’s something I’ve really enjoyed getting to be a part of, and it’s cool to see the film community growing that way.”
Sweeney said art houses can become an epicenter of culture as well as be a place where the entire community gathers. He also said he wants the theater to serve as a safe place where people can engage in civil discourse.
“It says a lot about people being able to come regardless of race, gender, orientation and feel safe and comfortable and engage with someone else,” said Sweeney. “It’s really important to have that voice in the community.”
His wife, Brooke Sweeney, designed and created the interior aesthetic to promote inclusion and instill a sense of familiarity with moviegoers.
“The city is very segregated still in a lot of ways … we just wanted to feel like we could represent blending those different cultures together,” Jimmy said. “A lot of it was driven out of the desire to have an aesthetic that felt very homey and comfortable.”
Jimmy Sweeney said the experience at The Grand Berry Theater differs from other movie theaters in that its goal is to intentionally foster discussion between the audience and the staff.
Trey Edwards, a member of the Film Club, said it has been his favorite part about the theater.
“It’s been great to hear other people’s opinions and views of the films we watch,” Edwards said.