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arasota Burns Court Cinema: Film Screening with Ambience

Sarasota Burns Court Cinema: Film Screening with Ambience

| Laura Bell Adams |

They say location is everything.  Throughout Sarasota there are numerous breathtaking venues to enjoy live music, theatre, comedy and opera.  Soaking up the surrounding environment can be almost as enjoyable as the main event when you find yourself in beautiful places like Burns Court Cinema.  Screening first-run foreign, independent, and art films, Burns Court Cinema is a hub in Sarasota’s fine cultural world.  Patrons have the option of attending films at the historic Burns Court location and at Burns Court at the Ranch in Lakewood Ranch.

We had the opportunity to speak to Tim Calandra, Community Outreach and Public Relations Director at the Sarasota Film Society about the relevance of Burns Court Cinema.  We’d like to thank him for his time and encourage the community to attend a film screening at beautiful Burns Court.  If you haven’t been, the ambiance and experience will make you a repeat visitor.  Beer and wine is served and there are several membership packages available.  Single films can be viewed for $8-nonmembers, and $5.00- members.  For more information about Burns Court Cinema, please visit  

Tell me about Sarasota Film Society, a symbol of Sarasota’s unique cultural atmosphere.  Sarasota Film Society was formed in 1984 as a 501(c)3 (not for profit) by Richard & Susan Morris.  Burns Court Cinemas opened its doors in 1993. Prior to showing films at Burns Court, Richard would rent out space wherever available, and bring in a projector and screen films for public viewing. The interest grew, and with its growth, SFS became a membership-driven Film Society. Today SFS is proud to say that we currently have a membership base of over 13,000 members.  The continual growth of membership is a symbol of the unique cultural atmosphere of Sarasota.

Has your family always been involved in movies and theatre?No, we haven’t. Barbara Caras began working at SFS in 2003 as a bookkeeper and quickly climbed the ladder to being appointed CFO. She eventually became Executive Director and shortly thereafter President, the title she held until her passing on August 24, 2017. Barbara’s husband, Nick Caras, took the position of CEO. I came to work for SFS in December of 2007 in the role of General Manager of Burns Court. I quickly moved into my home office taking the title of Director of Community Outreach & Public Relations. 

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Can you discuss the uniqueness of Burns Court Cinema?As a theater screening independent films is unique. Given the fact that we have three auditoriums adds another level of uniqueness as most Indie theaters generally feature one screen. Combine these features with the quaint neighborhood setting of Burns Square and the opportunity to enjoy a glass of wine or bottle beer on our patio and you have it all.

How are movies chosen?  You provide such a varied mix of foreign and even pop- culture films.Our films are chosen by an outside buyer. He studies our demographics and selects he genre of film that fits…. And he does an incredible job. 

What was it like working in such an interesting historical enclave like Burns Court?  For the short time I did spend there as General Manager, I can say that it is a very special place to work. The members as well as non-members are wonderful people. They love talking film. They all have great stories regarding the many movies they have seen there.

Is Burns Court Cinema haunted?  We have heard rumors!This is the first I am hearing of this. I do find it amusing and I am a firm believer of spirits and the hereafter.  Best I can say is if you are at the theater and in a discussion about a film, be careful what you say, as you just might hear something from Mr. Morris. He was known to be contentious with those he disagreed with…. lol

Sarasota Film SocietyYou do several community outreach programs that your sister began. What other types of community programs does Burns Court participate in?We open our theaters to the local chapter of Face Autism on a Saturday morning every other month to enable the parents and children the opportunity to see a movie on the big screen. These are films that they have selected and supply that are age-appropriate. We have also had them come out to Lakewood Ranch for a screening of what’s currently running at the time. This program is in its fifth year. It’s such a special feeling being able to give back to the community. We also offer a Saturday morning program called “Filmmakers Forum”. We open our theater up on a Saturday morning for local filmmakers who would like to screen their films on the big screen. The only requirements are that the screening is open and is free to the public, and that the filmmaker holds a Q&A following the screening.   

What do you consider to be the best parts of Sarasota? What improvements do you think need to happen in the area? Certainly, the arts, be it film, live theater, live music or live music combined with live theater Sarasota has tremendous availability. The talent in the area is simply amazing. As far as improvements, well with federal grant money being cut back we will all need to become innovative and well not recreate the wheel but perhaps tweak it a bit.

What is new and exciting at Burns Court this year? Simple answer… Every film that screens and every event that that takes place.

photos from Film Society website

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