Updated Tue, Apr 22, 2014 2:31 pm
After living in Athens for more than three decades, two Athenians have demonstrated they are eager to give back to what they think is a community treasure.
Ann Moneypenny, who graduated from Ohio University in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in art history, and her husband, Michael Kleinman, established the Athena Cinema Support Fund, a non-endowed fund, which provides support for the operational costs of the university-owned theater.
The fund is part of the Kleinpenny Educational Fund, a resource the couple created to support creativity, critical thinking, sustainability, tolerance and mental health programs.
Through Ohio University, the Kleinpenny Educational Fund supports Friends of the Kennedy Museum, OU’s Performing Arts Series Fund, WOUB Public Media and OU’s School of Dance, Film and Theater. Moneypenny and Kleinman have been supporting OU’s Division of Theater for almost 30 years.
The couple trace their business roots back to when they owned and operated the legendary Athens pizzeria, Late Night Pizza. Kleinman, who came to Athens in 1976, also opened one of the first food carts on Court Street. He sold French bread pizza to hungry students and uptown visitors just down the street from the Athena Cinema, which will celebrate its 100th year in 2015.
"Athens is a wonderful community in which to live, raise kids and take part in a wide variety of social groups," Moneypenny said. "We have enjoyed living here since '76 and '80 and feel blessed that our time on this planet as been so fulfilling. Athens has had a lot to do with that. Here you make a difference. Being part of the economy here has allowed us to prosper and to use our resources to give back. We'll never leave. Athens is our home."
Supporting Athens’ Only Uptown Cinema
The Athena has served the community as a cinema since its 1915 opening, making it one of the oldest continually-running cinemas in the United States. Ohio University purchased the theater in 2001 and shortly after turned operations over to the College of Fine Arts. The Kleinpenny Educational Fund serves to add to this support.
"At one time, it was kind of up in the air whether the theater would remain," Moneypenny said. "We realized how much the community would lose if the theater was lost."
Ohio University has made several upgrades to the theater in the years since purchasing it, including new projectors, refurbished seats and programming like "Science on Screen," a project of the Coolidge Corner Theater that is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Since OU’s ownership, the Athena has also been taken back to its art-house cinema roots, screening films that focus on independent work, foreign cinema and documentaries on current issues. It is the only art-house cinema in southeastern Ohio.
The Athena Cinema also has been long-time host to the Athens International Film + Video Festival (AIF+VF), which hosted its 41st festival earlier this month.
"I think the Athena Cinema helps keep Athens interesting," Moneypenny said. "It helps the atmosphere of open-minded education and learning about things you didn’t even know you didn’t know."
Kleinman and Moneypenny established the fund to support the theater’s operational costs, a rare choice for donors. Prior to the couple’s gift, the theater did not have its own private source for these costs.
Because these funds will be used at the discretion of those operating the theater, they will be used toward the Athena’s greatest operational needs.
"Ann and Michael’s generosity to the theater is such a meaningful contribution," said Athena Cinema Operations Director Alexandra Kamody. "The Athena is committed to serving both the Ohio University and Athens community and providing shared experiences for everyone in the area. It is a period of great change for theaters as we enter the age of digital exhibition and gifts like this will ensure the success and survival of the theater through these transitions."
The goal of the Athena Cinema Support Fund, Moneypenny said, is to insure the Athena Cinema remains in Athens to serve the Athens community. To give operational support to the Cinema, Moneypenny realized she and her husband needed to have an Ohio University Foundation account to which they could write the check. The theater did not have such an account, so they decided to create one.
"I think the Athena is a place where people can go to learn about topics, both current and historical," she said. "There’s such a wide diversity of genres offered in film there—a lot of foreign films. These are films that would never be shown in one of the area’s bigger theaters."
Support from the Kleinpenny Educational Fund is a part of Ohio University's The Promise Lives Campaign, which seeks to raise $450 million by June 30, 2015, and already has secured more than $447.1 million toward its goal in support of students, faculty, programs, partnerships and select facilities at Ohio University.
The article originally appeared on Ohio University's Compass.