Jean Cocteau is alive and well in Santa Fe. At least, the film house named for him is.
The Jean Cocteau Cinema, closed for years, was revived by none other than George R. R. Martin, author of the blockbuster fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, which spawned the TV cult hit Game of Thrones.
The historic adobe building, with its unlikely and distinctive blue Art Deco marquee, sits on a quiet corner in the Guadalupe neighborhood, about a 10-minute walk from the Santa Fe Plaza.
Art Deco meets adobe at the Jean Cocteau Cinema — Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
The 128-seat theater (132 seats, if you count the four in the glassed-in private VIP viewing room) offers what Theater Manager Melania Frasier calls an “eclectic programming schedule,” including retro films, occasional new releases, live music, author readings and even magic shows. The future may bring innovations such as stand-up comedy.
What kind of films will you see at the Jean Cocteau Cinema?
The theater’s programmer Jon Bowman notes, “We do try to balance our slate, knowing that the kinds of films that might appeal to older patrons perhaps won’t reach viewers under 40.”
Varying the genres attracts different segments of the viewing public at different times. The schedule hosts a wide spectrum of film genres, including art-house films, comedies, retro films and even musicals.
“We probably do more sci-fi, fantasy and epic film than most theaters,” says Bowman. “That not only reflects George’s tastes, but also is in keeping with the audience we have cultivated.”
Want a cocktail, a glass of wine or a beer to drink while watching a flick? The theater’s bar is open from Monday through Friday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and on weekends from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.
You can even order food, which will be delivered from the nearby Zia Diner. You can bring both the food and drink into the theater with you.
Want bar service without leaving your seat? Book the VIP room, and order your libations via intercom. Reserve seats there in advance; it can fill up, especially for special events. Besides people who want bar service, the soundproof VIP room attracts parents with young children in tow, people out on hot dates and even the occasional celebrity who wants to see a film without having to deal with fans.
The bar at the Jean Cocteau Cinema — Photo courtesy of Jean Cocteau Cinema
The concession stand is the only one in town selling organic popcorn specially ordered from Indiana and topped with real butter.
“It’s good for you,” Bowman says. “And also heaven to taste.”
Late-night movie buffs will be pleased to know that the Jean Cocteau Cinema runs a seasonal late-night film series on Friday and Saturday nights at 11 p.m. These shows feature cult movies, B-movies, ones that are “more outrageous or wilder than the film house's usuals. Some may be more violent, explicit or “more on the fringe.”
According to Bowman, the late-night shows attract a mix, including a younger crowd, some night owls and hardcore film buffs.
The theater started life, circa 1910, as a brewery. In 1976, the historic building became a movie theater, called Collective Fantasy. It became Jean Cocteau Cinema in 1983.
Six years later, it was sold to the Trans-Lux Corporation, who operated movie theaters around the country. In 2006, Trans-Lux closed its theaters and the Cocteau was no more.
For a while, it housed the New Mexico Film Office. But a dream to house a film museum at the theater didn’t come to fruition. After the film office left the building in 2010, it sat empty. Eventually, a "For Sale" sign went up. One evening, author Martin saw it, bought it and opened it in the span of only a few months. The official opening was August 9, 2013.
George R. R. Martin, autographing one of his books — Photo courtesy of Jean Cocteau Cinema
You may spy Martin at the theater. According to Bowman, fans have come from around the world to meet the author. What’s the most bizarre or memorable thing a fan has done?
“There was a young girl from Sweden who just wanted to stroke George’s beard!" answers Bowman. "She waited around more than week for an event he would be attending, and he obliged her! I think he got a good laugh out of that.”
Why come to the Jean Cocteau Cinema?
"The theater is like a little jewel box, a one-of-a-kind place, not only because of the programming, but also the exceptional architecture, the design features, even having a VIP room and a bar," says Bowman. "There’s no other place like it in New Mexico.”
What are you waiting for?