Gateway Film Center is attempting to transform the cinema waiting experience by doing less preshow advertisements and putting on its own community-focused series “Columbusland.”
“A preshow is usually just a lame kind of series of ads and trivia questions you’ve seen before when you show up early before the trailers,” said Johnny DiLoretto, director of operations at Gateway Film Center and co-creator of “Columbusland.”
When DiLoretto began as the director of operations in 2012, Gateway Film Center President Chris Hamel asked DiLoretto if they could do better.
In response, DiLoretto said “Absolutely.” So Hamel and DiLoretto created “Columbusland.”
“It’s original,” DiLoretto said. “And there’s no other theater in the country doing it.”
Instead of the usual trivia and general ads, DiLoretto and Hamel wanted something more relatable and relevant to the audience.
“Part of what we’re trying to achieve with ‘Columbusland’ is to create a dialogue with the community,” DiLoretto said.
Instead of professional actors, the show stars Gateway Film Center crew members and prominent figures in the Columbus community, such as local drag queen Nina West, Jeni Britton Bauer, creator of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and Frankie Hejduk from the Columbus Crew.
The ads the Gateway Film Center does show are focused on local Columbus businesses.
One year and six episodes later, “Columbusland” is still evolving.
“Initially it started as a more of an interview-driven show,” DiLoretto said. “But then it quickly became more sketch comedy oriented.”
“Columbusland” begins 20 minutes before most movie showings and an episode will run for 12-14 weeks, DiLoretto said. The production crew has several creative meetings during that time to plan, write, film and edit the next episode.
Trevor Galley, a third-year in environmental engineering at Ohio State, recalled having seen “Columbusland” during his most recent visit to the Gateway.
“I only vaguely remember it, but it’s definitely different,” Galley said. “It mixes things up a little bit as opposed to just having the usual previews and ads.”
Dejuan Taylor, 20, from the Columbus area, agreed.
“I love how it’s Columbus-made shorts before the movie comes on,” Taylor said.
Taylor is a frequent visitor to the Gateway and said he has seen several episodes of “Columbusland.” He said his favorite is the most recent “I Love Nina” spoof on “I Love Lucy.”
“I think (‘Columbusland’) is pretty funny,” Taylor said. “It’s definitely creative what they’re doing.”
Recently the “Columbusland” crew published a magazine under the same name.
“‘Columbusland’ the show is more entertainment driven,” DiLoretto said. “The magazine was basically a way to talk about ourselves, (and) to talk about movies.”
The magazine currently has two issues, with a third ready for print. Although DiLoretto did not name a specific date for publication, he said the next issue will come out in the next couple of weeks. The magazine is free, available at the Gateway Film Center.
“Columbusland” might see improvement in future episodes.
DiLoretto said he hopes the show and magazine catch on with more people, that they are able to create better quality sketches with faster production and to culminate in adding more ad revenue to continue creating “Columbusland.”