Introducing Kan-Kan Cinema And Brasserie

The future entrance to Kan-Kan Cinema and Brasserie

Courtesy Edward Battista

Grab your popcorn, indie-film-loving fans—downtown Indianapolis’s first arthouse cinema will open its doors just after the start of the new year. The Kan-Kan Cinema and Brasserie (1258 Windsor St.) caters to a different brand of entertainment than your typical blockbuster movieplex—one that, hopefully, will draw in novice and veteran film lovers alike.

In addition to featuring the latest first-run independent, classic cult, and locally made films, the movie theater will also host five-time James-Beard–nominated chef Abbi Merriss’s newest restaurant, Brasserie. While the restaurant and cinema will be housed in the same Windsor Park building, food-lovers can dine at the Brasserie without seeing a movie, and movie buffs can sample the delicious spread before or after the show.

The Kan-Kan started as a pipe dream unknowingly shared by various members of the Indianapolis community. During their travels across the country, investors Tom Battista, his son Ed Battista, and Sam Sutphin kept noticing “the funky little theater that’s connected to the culture and community in that city,” which, according to Ed Battista, allowed them to “get to know the city even better.” The group decided that Indy, for its size and character, deserved something similar.

The Battistas and Sutphins started looking for real estate a few years ago before finally deciding on the up-and-coming neighborhood of Windsor Park. After receiving outstanding support from the residents, the team started to set up shop in Christian Unity Missionary Baptist Church, planning to blend the traditional architecture with sleek modern style. But after encountering several foundation issues, they had to completely wreck the church and start fresh to avoid endless delays and future structural problems.

“Our architect actually kind of woke us up, and I think his email title said something like, ‘And now for something completely different,’” says Ed Battista. “He proposed that we start fresh and design a building that will better serve our purposes. It would’ve been hard to operate in the church, but it still would’ve been fun.”

During their search for the perfect plot, the Kan-Kan team also knew they needed to keep an eye out for the talent side of the operation. Enter Daniel Jacobson, now the director of programming. Jacobson and his colleagues also envisioned an arthouse cinema downtown, imagining how a central space like that could generate film-centric conversation and bring Indy’s film community together. But both Battista and Jacobson emphasize how the Kan-Kan will cater to one and all.

“We wanted to be able to create something that can exist next to a library, next to a park, next to families, and we’re not gonna be this stealthy arthouse cinema, because there’s a lot of connotations when you say ‘art-house film,’” Jacobson says. “People say, ‘Oh, that’s not a place for me,’ and we want to erase that. We just want to be a community movie theater and restaurant for the neighborhood, and hopefully you come see something you wouldn’t normally see and you walk out surprised and excited that you experienced that.”

And for those who are still turning the film over in their minds during the credits, they can take their post-movie thoughts and reactions right next door to Brasserie.

“We always say the conversation about the movie is, I would argue, just as important as the movie itself,” Jacobson explains. “So we always had this vision of creating this space that when you walk out of the movie, it just invites you to keep talking about it, talk about your different experiences, because that’s how you grow from watching a movie. We want to create a space where there’s kind of the home for that.”

And the home for some spectacular food and drink.

Hoosiers won’t just get to see film screenings, however—Jacobson also says that they want to host special events centered around cinema. From Saturday-morning family movies, to a structured lecture series from movie specialists, to guest curators from Indy’s local film scene, the Kan-Kan will become the central space in the city to encounter anything and everything related to cinema.

These events wouldn’t be possible, though, without the formation of the Indianapolis Film Project. The IFP is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that powers the cinema side of the Kan-Kan, and leaves room in the future for more involvement in the film community.

“We want to be able to provide opportunities for filmmaking beyond just the reach of the Kan-Kan,” Jacobson says, “so once we do get this engine going, it’s like, Oh, now we can impact beyond our four walls, because we do have this non profit set up.”

IFP may run things behind the scenes, but the group hopes that the face of the initiative—the name Kan-Kan—will be what draws people in to the experience. And if you’re wondering where the clever name Kan-Kan comes from, look no further than Indy’s most renowned writer.

“Yes, it is a Vonnegut reference,” Battista reveals. “It’s from Cat’s Cradle. The kan-kan is the vehicle which brings one into a karras, a group of cosmically interlinked people.

“We want people to talk, we want people to have conversations, we want people to realize that we’re all the same tribe, and that we can see content from all across the globe, see how other people are experiencing the world, and be able to apply that to what we see in our own lives.”

Battista promises that the Kan-Kan will be, primarily, an experience you won’t soon forget.

“We’re gonna have an entertaining experience. It’s not gonna be your typical kind of institutional arts organization. A lot of why we chose the Kan-Kan and why we’re going with the more playful logos and things like that—we want it to be inviting, we want it to be welcoming. We know that first and foremost, people are walking through our doors to be entertained. We’re gonna definitely entertain them, and we hope that we engage them a little bit deeper, too.”