Movies and More

So, here’s where we’re at on this moment. After a long hiatus, I can declare that movies are coming back. SLOWLY. Forgetting about the much talked about and hyped “Barbenheimer” phenomenon (which really wasn’t a phenomenon at all – they were just two very popular movies that emerged from a desert of inactivity), indies and studios ARE pumping out more product  From the looks of it the product is relatively respectable as well  I’ll admit, I haven’t seen many of the flicks nominated yet but they’re on my radar and I’m making every attempt to get in a theater to see them  BEFORE they hit home screens. I’m still a Luddite when it comes to movies. I ENJOY seeing them on a big screen  it’s how they SHOULD be see.

Below are three links to articles of interest – if you’re a movie lover  The first is from a NYT article about a relationship and movie influence  a different take

The second talks about the winners at Sundance this year and what to look out for when they hit distribution

The third  discusses the 2024 Sundance festival as a whole. Sundance, like the movie business overall,too a real hit during COVID-19 and this year has started to see a revitalization.

But will theaters?  I just read that a famed theater in Ridgewood I believe has hit the skids and is closing? I know what THAT feels like

Click the links, read the news. Pretty interesting.



Bittersweet, But Looking Forward

The cold winds are whipping at the Jersey Shore, snow blankets the ground and this time of year always reminds me of being wrapped in Awards Season. It’s that period between Christmas and the Oscars – this year scheduled for March 10th – that kept us warm, cozy and active in the film exhibition business. Listening to the podcasts and reading the industry headlines now, I look back fondly on those weeks of curating the best, most popular, and those films that had a chance to win an award so our audiences could watch them in the comfort of an independent cinema. As a small cinema, the battle was always frantic to attain the right mix against the forces of the major chains. 

The Christmas season usually produced two or three contenders that audiences would clamor to see in a theater. The buzz of the Golden Globes, the DGA awards and the frenzy of Sundance continued the box office machine.

Alas, the industry changed through a chance interruption with something called Covid and a pandemic. And we – all of us – changed forever. Or, at least for a long time. Industry prognosticators now peg the cinema slump through 2025.  In 2024, audiences now are more likely to stay at home and wait for their selections to arrive on their big screen televisions through the proliferation of streaming services. The thrill of being enveloped in a film in a darkened cinema with your neighbors is long past. 

And so is the business of film exhibition. The landscape has changed so dramatically I don’t even recognize it anymore. 

Nancy and I are looking forward, though. While most everyone looks back fondly to what we created – and we’re thankful for all your kind words – we’re moving ahead with our current projects in the Asbury Park Arts Council, APTV and the League of Women Voters. ArtsRule still provides us a voice in arts and culture which we’re pleased to continue.

For those of you still watching, Sundance starts tomorrow January 17th. The Oscar nominations are announced on January 23rd. And the Oscar ceremony is March 10th.

If you get a chance, see a movie in a cinema. Please.

The Cardboard Art Show


In January 2023, artists Porkchop, Bradley Hoffer, and Jason Stumpf sequestered themselves in a studio with a large quantity of cardboard. They used this ubiquitous medium for an exercise in free-form and experimental creative play. The Cardboard Show is the result: a collection of large scale sculptures and forms in three distinct voices, united by medium, friendship, and a commitment to a playful approach to creating art for its own sake. Watch what happens when three local artists and friends take over a gallery to create a collaborative cardboard installation using 50+ sheets of cardboard, 300+ glue sticks and lots and lots of razor blades.

This documentary short goes behind-the-scenes to talk with the artists about this unique project, how it came about and the power of collaboration, creativity and friendship. Celebrate the Art of Cardboard.

Shoot, Edit, Win

Asbury Park Arts Council Announces the APin3 Film Challenge

The Asbury Park Arts Council (APAC) is pleased to announce its first annual ‘AP in 3’, a three- minute film challenge open to all local amateur filmmakers. Those who apply will be required to write, shoot and edit a short film about Asbury Park during a three-day period in October, utilizing a supplied theme, a specific line of dialogue and incorporating a designated location and prop. The top ten short films, as judged by a panel of independent creatives, will be screened at the House of Independents on Sunday, October 23rd. Thousands of dollars in prizes will be awarded to the top three films and one audience-choice winner.

“We know that there are filmmakers, their families and friends who enjoy the teamwork aspect of this type of challenge and this is a great way to showcase talent in our great little city,” said Mike Sodano, one of the founding members of APAC. “Making Asbury Park the focus of short films allows anyone to have a voice in how the city is perceived and keeps the artform on the street.” Sodano, and his partner Nancy Sabino, originally the created the ‘AP in 3’ concept in 2014 when they were owners of the Showroom Cinema on Cookman Avenue; they ran the challenge twice and were impressed with the variety and creativity of the entries. Sodano brought the idea with him to APAC, which was successful in attracting grant funding to help underwrite the project this year.

The online submission platform, Film Freeway, will be utilized for the challenge and applications can be found through the Film Freeway website. There is a $25 entry fee, but no one should feel that the cost is a barrier as there are discounts and sponsorships available to help with the entry fee. The actual filming timeframe will start at 6pm on Thursday, October 13th when filmmaker kits will be sent via email to all applicants and will end at 6pm on Sunday, October 16th, the time by which all films will need to be uploaded

Carrie Turner, Executive Director of APAC said, “It is our hope that there is participation from a wide range of individuals and organizations; Asbury is full of artists and characters alike and we expect to see that represented in the submissions. Since films can be shot on such widely available tools as your cell phone, almost anyone is able to take part in the challenge. APAC looks forward to growing AP in 3 to become an annual event that showcases the creative spirit that is found in every corner of our city.”

Start thinking about how you’d like to tell your story of Asbury Park and apply to be a part of this year’s AP in 3. Mark your calendar for this cinematic weekend in October.

Tickets for the premier screening on the 23rd will be available soon on the Film Freeway website – – and cost $5.

The Asbury Park Arts Council is a 501c3 group formed to advocate for and promote arts and culture initiatives in the city. For more information on APAC:

Waste Not, Want Not

The Asbury Park Public Arts Commission, with support from the Asbury Park Arts Council and Monmouth Arts is seeking artists from all backgrounds, locations, and levels of experience to create public art (murals) for a permanent mural project located on the city-owned Wastewater Treatment Facility located at 1700 Kingsley Street on the north end of the Asbury Park Boardwalk. The program emphasizes focus on artistic freedom and expression, encouraging participating artists to bring their personal artistic vision to life leading to a diverse range of styles and content in a permanent public art installation in Asbury Park. The City seeks to create opportunities for muralists at different experience levels and will offer multiple wall/panel sizes as palettes. Selected artists will be compensated for their design. More information can be found at All questions should be sent to by July 7, 

Helen, Mike and Nancy

Asbury Park: A Dreamer's Paradise

Recently Nancy and Mike had the chance to speak with noted author Helen Pike about Arts Vibrancy in Asbury Park. Helen has been researching, photographing and writing about Asbury Park for over a dozen years and has a comprehensive understanding of the city’s history, present and future. In our quest to investigate what qualities it takes to make a city “arts-centric”, we turned to Helen to give us some insights. As always when speaking with Helen, the conversation was enlightening and enjoyable.

Take a listen, send us your comments.

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Grandest of Sandcastles

I caught this post recently on FB from our friend and wordsmith Tom Chesek regarding one of Asbury Park’s most iconic buildings: The Convention Hall/Paramount Theater complex that overlooks the ocean. Tom is the author of LEGENDARY LOCALS OF ASBURY PARK, which I strongly urge you to pick up a copy at this link.

Tom’s post provides an interesting perspective on the famed brick building and his writing is, as always, expressed in a style that we haven’t seen duplicated. Tom is truly one of the more quiet creatives here in Asbury and Nancy and I always look forward to his work. We’re glad he resides in Asbury Park as he is an integral participant in the creative community.


A reporter from the Asbury Park Press (like so many other folks these days, acting under the mistaken assumption that I’m some kind of official historian/ unimpeachable authority) asked for my thoughts on the city’s Convention Hall…what it means to people; the scenes it’s seen, and oh the places it may or may not go. Here’s what I sent ’em…

Like pretty much any place outside of a handful of immediately recognizable cities, New Jersey can claim very little in the way of “iconic” buildings…and with Lucy the Elephant currently shrouded in scaffolding, it falls upon Asbury Park’s Convention Hall/ Paramount Theatre complex to represent the past and present and hopes and dreams and pride and ambition and ever-complicated collective identity of our Garden State.

Now more than ever it seems, this grandest of sandcastles serves as a split-second signifier in the drone shots of countless commercials and videos. Its colorful brickwork and copper baubles make for a sought-after backdrop to news dispatches (as reported by everyone from local public access personnel to the likes of Anderson Cooper), official pronouncements (from mayor/ council and assemblypersons, to multiple gubernatorial administrations and President Barack Obama), and…in tandem with its fallen sister the Casino…every other area wedding party photo shoot this side of the Deep Cut Gardens pergola.

This is a place…likened by Debbie Harry to “a concrete bathtub” for its notoriously muddy acoustics…that’s resounded with the echoes of countless trade shows, pageants, boxing bouts, wrestling slams, professional basketball games (any love out there for the NJ Shorecats?), grand operas and yes CONVENTIONS, as well as midnight marriages and movie star appearances (The Marx Brothers, Fredric March, Ginger Rogers, hometown favorite son Danny De Vito), tattoo meets and TED talks, flea markets and filmfests, CatCons and of course concerts: The Rolling Stones, Ray Charles, Janis, Dylan, The Duke, The Doors, The Who, The Clash, The (Johnny) Cash, some fella named Bruce, and what was purported to be the nation’s first Rock ‘n Roll Riot. 

For a generation-plus of locals like myself, it was the place where you saw your very first concert (Black Sabbath! Well okay, Black Oak Arkansas)…a place where indelible memories were forged, whether on the main floor and upper level walkways, or in many cases on the beach beneath its pilings.

Even in its present, largely silenced and sidelined state, the backdrop to the story continues to become the story in itself…whether suspending all scheduled events during a highly uncertain interlude, or generating a cardboard controversy over the installation of a unique holiday tree (a move that resonated in particular with all those who still don’t get that the building has been private property, and not city property, for decades). 

TV-show paranormal investigators seek out traces of the fabled ghosts from the SS Morro Castle disaster; mysteries still swirl about the “Great Copper Caper” disappearance of some irreplaceable architectural features, while the current conflicts between City Hall and the present-day stewards of the structure remain the stuff of local-news headlines and social media kerfuffle.

Even though it’s still shy of a hundred years old, the old castle holds more than its share of tales, you gotta reckon, within and beyond the “secret” spaces where pieces of antique pipe organs and projection equipment dwell…but at the same time, it exists as a place of contemporary commerce, where electronic purchase transactions are booped into the permanent record on the Grand Arcade floor, and where a flight of stairs and an intriguing door lead you to the wired workstations and conference cabanas of the boardwalk’s managers. 

Still, in a deliriously dynamic and ever-changing environment where no “landmark point of reference” is necessarily sacred…not even a century-old Roman Catholic church going Luxury Condo…the roller-coaster ride of history will inevitably cast many of its unsecured riders loose, often just seconds after their thrilled faces were snapshotted as they ascended to what they thought was the top of the world.

So appreciate it for it was and maybe will be again, this brick-and-mortar behemoth that has loomed large in our Jersey dreams; this Depression-era land liner that had the audacity to block Founder Bradley’s stony gaze to the seaward horizon; this conveyor of “Greetings from Asbury Park” that has stood fast against so many of the most epic storms of Jersey Shore lore…even as the interfaces of time and tide do their thing in ways that are not always readily apparent to the wonderstruck observer.

Dance in the ghostly sights and sounds of summers past, here in our undisputed Nexus of All Nostalgia…or be among those who are making memories NOW and gazing upon possible futures during this city’s work-in-progress latest chapter. Buy yourself a snack or a souvenir; explore the beach and the boards and the city boulevards that beckon beyond the arcade; take a really deeply detailed look at the up and down and inside and outside of it all…

…and go ahead, TAKE those selfies that say you were there inside that uniquely New Jersey moment. Get that wedding party together and snap away…just don’t get TOO married to these beloved castles made of shifting sand.

Oh Tannenbaum

The Christmas Tree Kerfuffle that arose with the installation of a non-traditional 17′ tall cardboard art sculpture in the Grand Arcade on the Asbury Park Boardwalk has received national and international attention. It was only natural that ArtsRule would want to explore the genesis and impact this art has had from the perspective of the three individuals responsible for its creation.

The GIVING TREE in the Grand Arcade
Art as tradition
"NJ Mourns Tradition" - NY Post

This is a wide-ranging conversation that took place on December 16th 2021, with Jenn Hampton, curator of The Wooden Walls Project and gallerista of Parlor Gallery and two of Asbury’s own from the art community with us, your Arts Rule hosts Mike Sodano and Nancy Sabino. The artists, Porkchop (Michael LaValle) and Brad Hoffer, designed and installed the cardboard Christmas tree titled THE GIVING TREE for developer Madison Marquette. Located inside the Grand Arcade on the Asbury Park Boardwalk, the tree has created quite the buzz. Touching upon art, developers, city government and the role they all play in defining an arts-centric city, it’s clear that there is no straight path to becoming arts-centric. Serendipity plays as much a role as planning. Take a listen, and if you’d prefer to watch the interview, it’s available here on our Vimeo site.

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What's the Story about a Tour?

“I don’t consider tour-guiding an art form.  However, I do consider story-telling an art form.” – Kathy Kelly, owner Paranormal Books and Curiosities

When traveling to a new city, Mike and I often stop at the Visitor Center and ask about a walking tour to get a lay of the land, see those ‘particular to the area’ sights and listen to the tour guide take us through the history.  Walking tours are much like the shared experiences of movies and theater, the information is better assimilated in a group, the diversity of strangers heightens the excitement of a new experience.  Our tours have been memorable from the Big Onion Original Multi Ethnic walking tour in NYC winding through Chinatown, Little Italy and the Jewish neighborhoods of my parents.   Or around the canals in Amsterdam where marijuana wafted from the cafes and we learned of squatters who took over an abandoned building and legally got to keep it because the owner had long neglected it.  Or on a boat trip up the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok, which hasn’t changed all that much since the Vietnam War period, with homes perched on poles and fishing, washing and bathing all still daily activities on the banks.


Our own city of Asbury Park has weekly tours in the downtown for the public given, with flair, by Kathy Kelly, owner of Paranormal Books and Curiosities and her band of tour guides.  She came into town in 2008, opened her book store dedicated to all things off-beat and otherworldly and has become a force of nature ever since.  She has learned that “everyone craves and enjoys losing themselves in a story that connects them to the past and to other people.”

When I asked Kelly whether she would consider her very popular ghost tours an art form, she explained, “Many tour guides are great and proficient, but some elevate that to something different.  In the case of a ghost tour, the guide needs to do more than just relate a narrative, or exchange dates and times etc. He or she needs to connect with the audience, use voice, mannerisms, words and tone to create an experience that enthralls, entertains, but also makes them lose themselves in that experience.  The tent poles of a story can be told by anyone, but it takes more to make people step outside themselves and let themselves get lost for a few minutes in a fantastic tale.  Someone who can do that is an artist.”


Ghost tours cater to the occult, revel in crimes and spirits, and are ideally suited for a night on the town.  Historic tours highlight architecture, changes in city landscape and the politics behind statues and public art.  Building tours celebrate the grandeur and scope of the structure.  Walking tours cover ground and the participation is felt in the company of others.  Mural tours cover graffiti, and large and small wall art in public and hidden outdoor spaces.  National Park tours can be found in the obvious but also in New Orleans and Boston Patriot’s Trail.  There are now tours for every niche imaginable, in a large way, these cater to vibe of a place, showcasing a landscape and imparting ‘personal’ knowledge.  There is always something to see.


In Seattle recently, our Food Tour guide for Pike Place Market, Chef Eric, was a great help in encouraging our tour group to frequent the generous stalls he had given us tastes from, what a natural selling tool and synergistic.  He was also a chef himself, a long-time resident of Seattle and an outgoing personality, enjoying himself as well as his guests, bringing out stories from them as well.  The participatory nature of his immersion into Seattle history while we were standing in the middle of the Market on a sunny morning was infectious. The value-added nature of the tour was evident, he even guided everyone to other tours, or restaurants he personally recommended in any price range or neighborhood.  Kelly also uses her tours to encourage her guests to return, to other tours or events, like the upcoming Krampus Festival she started.  Krampus, a horned, anthropomorphic figure from pre-Christian Alpine folk-lore, rewards the good and punishes the bad children around the Christmas holidays and has grown in stature in the US as family fun.


In Cleveland, we were guided by a very helpful Visitor Center representative to experience, a spectacular art museum (free), a cemetery with the largest Tiffany window in the US and 2 walking tours.  What made these tours special was that the tour guide was aided by actors in period costumes, at 2 stops along each tour.  Portraying famous city residents who invented, developed or were influential in shaping the city, these additional characters made the city’s history come alive in the first person words of those who had ‘lived it’.  Tours give life to the history, helping those in attendance experience the city through the eyes of the guides.


New York City’s Up Close Broadway Tours during the pandemic started back outdoors and were in operation even before the theaters re-opened.  Of course, an ex-actor, John, gave our tour to a group of theater lovers and out of towners desperate for something related to their beloved Great White Way.  Who knew how many theaters there were on 42nd street?  Or the actors who were most notable of their times?  And what about those developers who designed the spaces to their audiences preferences – a roof top petting zoo and clever interior routes to make the best use of the busy street’s entrances and exits.  We were unexpectedly immersed, on the busy sidewalks, and we never walked more than around the block.  This tour guide made his talk into the artform of a great storyteller, WE were breathless when he was done with his 90 minutes.

Kathy Kelly (center) during Krampus event
Visitors touring during Krampus

Is having tours good for a city?  Kelly has no qualms, “It is always a positive.  Ghost tours are history tours in disguise.  By telling the private history of a place, they remind people that other people lived and prospered, and lost and died in that place. Our market base is not locals. It has always come from all over the tristate area.”

Your city’s features, history and charm can be wrapped into an enticing story that can make it a destination and benefit the economy. The art of storytelling can be found within the ambassadors that are your tour guides.

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Neighborhood Investment Fosters the Arts

In looking at arts-centricity in cities, ArtsRule is keeping an eye open for innovative ideas throughout the world.  Detroit has an ambitious plan thanks to 2 gallerists who are creating an art center complex.  Here’s a story about a progressive plan to jump start the blocks around an old church and preserving the legacy of a local artist to bring an arts coalition to a community ready for a seat at the table.  This is one way a win for all concerned saves a structure, remembers a leader and forms the partnerships needed to bring the arts organically into a neighborhood. Read About it HERE. 

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