Ted Barron doesn’t just watch movies for a living. Really.
The senior associate director of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center does lots of other stuff, such as teaching a course and overseeing general operations at the center, in addition to management and programming of the Browning Cinema.
“There’s more to the job than the glamorous cinema side of things,” says Barron, who came to Notre Dame in 2010 from Harvard University, where he was senior programmer of the Harvard Film Archive and director of programming of the Coolidge Corner Theatre Foundation.
The glamorous cinema side of things includes attending the Toronto Film Festival, where he saw 25 films in five days, and keeping up with the latest releases as well as classic films that are mixed into the schedule. The Meg and John P. Brogan Classic 100 endowment, for example, aims at exposing students to top films across their four undergraduate years.
Barron, who studied film at Boston University in a master’s program that focused on seeing as many as possible, has pursued both academic and cinema-programming positions in his career. He took the Notre Dame position after coming for an interview and touring the center.
“I was blown away,” he recalls. “The quality of the venues said to me that the University had made a very strong commitment to the arts that I hadn’t seen in other places. I was excited about the opportunity to work in a situation where there would be those kinds of resources available.”
The smaller-population setting offers a freedom to experiment unknown than in larger cities with competing venues, Barron says.
“I’ve found that I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who really care deeply about the city and the possibilities that exist here that don’t exist in a bigger place,” he says. “I feel we have the opportunity to create something with the cinema and the Performing Arts Center in general.
“In many ways, we’re the only game in town for a lot of things, so we get to make a difference in people’s lives in a way we wouldn’t in a bigger city where we would be competing with other venues.”
The programming aims at both high-quality art and broad accessibility, including popcorn availability eschewed by some highbrow institutions.
“It’s trying to strike a balance between presenting what are considered the premier independent or international films, films that people don’t generally have access to, and balancing that out with particular interests, where we have different segments of the community we want to address,” Barron says, such as an ongoing family film series and a midnight series geared toward students.
“We don’t want people to feel they have to come in a suit and tie. How do you present cinema as an art form as opposed to a form of entertainment? We’re trying to get that intersection between art and entertainment and present something that gives people something to think about and at the same time is accessible in other ways.”