DIANE MAKAR MURPHY For 5 years, Flick Clique clicks in the Valley

Lots of people come up with great ideas at parties; vodka and Jack Daniels will do that for you. But sometimes, just sometimes, the ideas are still great by the next morning ... and sometimes, they're great even seven years later.
In 1995, Tricia Perry (of WKBN-TV Channel 27 news) and Art Byrd (of WFMJ Channel 21) met at a party and started talking about the movies that never made it to Youngstown-area screens. "We had to go to the Cedar Lee in Cleveland or to Pittsburgh to see them," Perry said. "We wanted them here. So we talked about having a film festival."
In 1996, a meeting was held. Other interested people came on board, including Atty. Mike Morley and Deb Shaulis, Vindicator entertainment editor. The Flick Clique was born, and the first matter of business was developing an audience.
Building a reputation: Members decided a festival would do better if the group had a reputation. They could build one by having periodic showings of tough-to-get movies and art films.
They incorporated their nonprofit group and focused on showing one movie at a time instead of a festival.
Five years ago in March, they launched the Flick Clique, showing "Il Postino" at the now defunct independent Austintown Cinema. "It was packed, practically standing room only," Perry recalled. A large audience attended another showing, too -- "Big Night."
"We did this for three years, showing about 20 films a year in Austintown, around two a month," she said. Members paid $20 to belong, and in return got member discounts and invitations to special mixers. Art, foreign and locally produced films, film shorts and documentaries made the bill. (Current membership is $25.)
With luck, the Flick Clique managed to grab films before they hit the video shelves, but even when it couldn't, its showings would draw an audience.
Theater advantages: "There are a lot of advantages to seeing a film in the theater," said Shaulis, Flick Clique's president. "First, there's the big screen. Also, we call attention to films someone might not even know to ask for. It's also hard to find certain foreign films on video here."
Finally, said Shaulis, seeing a film with a theater full of people is an irreplaceable experience. "If you do it right, there is a point to going to the theater. The shocks and surprises ripple through all the people. There is so much energy," she said.
Last year, the Flick Clique moved its showings to the Oakland Center for the Arts in downtown Youngstown.
"They had a projection booth, but no projector," Perry said. "We had a fund-raiser, showed 'Spring Forward,' which Mike Morley co-produced, and made $4,000." They found a used projector for $5,000.
The Oakland's busy theatrical schedule has affected the regularity of Flick Clique showings, but funding a place of its own is probably not realistic. "We're all-volunteer, and that would probably require a full-time commitment," said Perry, Clique vice president. "A man from the Cedar Lee purchased the Austintown Cinema recently, and I understand he is looking into showing art films. That would be fine with us, because our goal has always been just to have the films here, not to be the ones that had to show them."
Upcoming anniversary: March 3 marks the fifth anniversary of the Flick Clique's first film showing, and volunteers are already planning a celebratory event. They must wait, however, to see which films the Oscar nominations will popularize, making their availability unlikely for the Clique. "We'd like to get 'The Business of Strangers' with Stockard Channing, but we'll see," Perry said.
"People complain there is no culture in the Valley -- well there is. You just have to look for it," she said.
You can start by looking at the Flick Clique. For more information or to join its 400 members, visit www.cboss.com/flickclique or call Perry at (330) 757-0390.

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