In this environment, the films feel more like opportunities than one of a dozen daily showings. Enzian hosts opportunities like the annual Florida Film Festival held every spring. Over one hundred and eighty unique films craft this seasonal experience. Celebrity “talk-back” appearances, where celebrities in the 2018 edition, like Billy Crudup, Pam Grier, and Lea Thompson, actively participated with their audience by introducing their film and answering questions. The South Asian and Jewish Film festivals are also unique draws, offering seldom highlighted cultures and locales, which don’t get the same treatment in mainstream cinemas.
Locally made films are also strongly supported. 2017’s critically acclaimed The Florida Project, directed and co-writer by Sean Baker, premiered at the Enzian and was shown there two weeks before any other theatre. Nearly all of its actors appeared at a special talk-back event, including a charming interview onstage with its two pre-elementary school aged leads. The young stars, Brooklyn Prince and Valerie Cotto, shared their experiences during the making of the Florida Project, which was made in Osceola county near the Disney Parks. Following the pair’s naturalistic performance, the girls ran around the grounds of the theatre, unintentionally reenacting scenes from the film.
The subject matter of the films at Enzian, like the intimate look at poverty in the Florida Project, are often important and thought-provoking. For this reason, visitors find a very different type of experience that doesn’t shy away from difficult and challenging concepts. David Schillhammer, Executive Director of Enzian, understands the special ability that films have to “illuminate” these sort of issues found in the world. They can be a “window to the world” and bring issues not seen or heard of “to the light for people.” Other films like 8 Borders, 8 Days, a documentary about a mother forced to flee Syria, displays this desire. I Am Not Your Negro, the documentary about writer James Baldwin, conveys the racial difficulties of the author during his life in civil rights era America. Woman on Fire details the experience of New York's first transgender firefighter. Not all of the films at the Enzian are “message” movies according to Schillhammer, but many are.
Fun events also abound at the Enzian. The adorably named “Peanut Butter Matinees” are a great draw for children to see family films like Ponyo and The Wizard of Oz. Kids get their own menu and those 12 and under watch for free. Popcorn Flicks are classic films shown under the stars every second Thursday of the month in Central Park, Winter Park. After a month of scary films from past and present, the Eden Bar Halloween party is hosted the Saturday before the 31st. Enjoy your film, dress up, and come out to the Eden Bar for the celebration.
Live music events are held here every month to accompany great food and drinks, including the most popular item on the menu, the Eden Burger. Equally important, the Eden Bar encourages movie goers not to head to the parking lot right after their film is over, but stop and chat for a while. Here, conversation and debate are encouraged. It's OK not to like the film you saw, because the discussion itself can be the most important part of your viewing experience. Sitting at a patio table in the courtyard and sipping a cocktail with other movie lovers is a pleasure unto itself.
This variety of experiences has circled around the grounds of Enzian since it was founded in 1985 by Tina and Philip Tiedtke. The theatre, hidden amongst hundred year old mossy oaks, is appropriately named after the German word for a species of hidden mountain flower. For thirty-three years, this hidden and unique flower has served as Central Florida’s only full-time, not-for-profit art house. With the independent films that Enzian lives for and its unique ambiance, it is not surprising that Enzian was also named the “Coolest Movie Theatre” in all Florida by Cosmopolitan magazine in 2017.
Even after achieving this “cool” status, it's still the visitors who are catered to the most here. It is not uncommon to hear phrases like “I love that place!” when Enzian is mentioned. These sentiments are the norm because people love being here and then planning their return visit. Enzian looks for new and “hot” movies according to Schillhammer, so they quickly book them. This “catch a shooting star” policy keeps the lineup dynamic and always interesting. It's likely that a movie you had just heard about is already playing here.
At Enzian, there is no hustle and bustle to get you in and out. It is a theatre whose priority is “Film, Food, and Friends.” Find the joy of film in this comfortable setting and keep on the lookout for the ever revolving and often life changing depictions of art in this true, hidden flower of Central Florida.