International House Philadelphia announces name change, launch party for revamped film program

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International House newly named Lightbox Film Center will host a free screening of 1992's "Gas Food Lodging" starring Fairuza Balk (left) and Ione Skye, with director Allison Anders in attendance, on Thursday.

International House Philadelphia’s long-running film program has a new name, and organizers plan to celebrate with a free movie screening and party this week.

Formerly called “Film at International House,” the nearly 40-year-old film program has been renamed “Lightbox Film Center.” As a release notes, the program takes its name from a film-making tool used to help light scenes for filming, as IHP hopes the Center will “shine a light on important works” of film.

To celebrate, International House (3701 Chestnut St.) will host a free film screening and party on Thursday, May 18 at 7 p.m. Serving as a launch party, the event will feature a screening of Gas Food Lodging with director Allison Anders in honor of the movie’s 25th anniversary. The 1992 flick stars Brooke Adams as a single mother in New Mexico raising two teenage girls (played by Fairuza Balk and Ione Skye), and features a soundtrack from Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis.

Following the film screening, Lightbox Film Center will host a reception with food and drinks from sponsors including Honeygrow, Philadelphia Distilling, Sang Kee Noodle House, spOt Gourmet Burgers, and others. Entertainment will come from DJ Liz Bot.

RSVPs, it should be noted, have reached capacity, with International House noting that admission is not guaranteed for folks who have not already RSVPd. The launch party, however, serves as a kickoff to a spring season that features a number of other screenings throughout the coming months.

Housed at IHP starting in 1979, the newly renamed Lightbox Film Center has become known for its eclectic, adventurous nature, screening everything from black westerns like They Die By Dawn to more mainstream fare like Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. The Center also hosts live music, artist talks, and exhibitions.

Since its launch, the Center has grown to screen about 500 films a year, attracting some 22,000 audience members annually. The name change, organizers say, is a way to draw more attention to the Center, which chief curator Jesse Pires called a “hidden gem.”

“With our new name, we hope to shed our ‘hidden’ status and bring more visibility to the singular programming we do here week after week, month after month, year after year,” Pires said.