The Art Theatre becomes home to this book club for film lovers

Movies n' Books Club welcomes anyone to discuss films adapted from books at virtual and in-person monthly gatherings.

The Art Theatre becomes home to this book club for film lovers
Stefania Priestley, president of Movies n' Books Club holds up a copy of André Aciman's novel "Call Me By Your Name" in front of The Art Theatre in Long Beach. It's the club's monthly pick for June.

In January, Kendall Moore went to see "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" at The Frida Cinema in Santa Ana, a film adapted from one of her favorite books.

But she had no idea the showing was hosted by Movies n’ Books Club.

“‘Wait, this is a book club? I have to stay and listen to this,’” said Moore thought at the time. “I stayed for that meeting and it was so fun and cute and super chill”

After finishing a nearly two-year residency at The Frida this year, the club has found a new home in Long Beach within the city’s oldest and only independent movie house, The Art Theatre.

“I love the theater [Art Theatre]. When I walked in, my jaw dropped, I was like holy cow,” said Stefania Priestley, the club’s president. “I just feel like this is a really good place for Movies n’ Books Club right now.”

Moore said she challenges herself to read more books and watch up to 100 movies she has never seen each year. She says the club is “literally perfect” for her.

MnBC’s niche is novels with film adaptations but members aren’t restricted to print-bound mediums.

“The amazing thing about this club is you can read the book, you can do the audiobook or you could just come to watch the movie and it just makes sense,” Priestly said.

In April, the club began its new chapter in Long Beach with a discussion of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility'' followed by a screening of its 1995 film adaptation.

MnBC also hosts an online chapter which has its separate monthly pick.

President of Movies n' Books Club, Stefania Priestley stands in front of the box office at The Art Theatre in Long Beach. Two of her favorite books that she read for the club are "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn and "Fight Club" by Chuck Palahniuk.

Both online and in-person meetings happen once a month, allowing attendees to choose between two different book and movie combinations. Priestley said the virtual meetings are also an accessible option for those interested in joining a discussion but can’t make it out to The Art Theatre.

For both chapters, the club has partnered with Bel Canto Books, a bookstore with three locations across Long Beach.

Bel Canto Books recently opened its first standalone store across from The Art Theatre on Fourth Street. The other locations operate within Steel Cup Cafe and creative workspace KUBO LB.

“It’s a little bit different than your standard book club where you are just reading the book,” said Jhoanna Belfer, owner of Bel Canto Books. “It adds another layer to the discussion — to be able to see what choices they make when they turn the book into a big-screen production.”

Priestley said she notices different people coming to the club every month. Although she hopes to see more regulars, Priestley says she adores the varying viewpoints offered at the discussions.

“I've had these conversations where my perspective has been wildly different from other people coming into the meeting,” said Priestley. “It's just always interesting to hear their thoughts because it makes you look at things in a new light.”

Priestley arrives at every meeting with prepared talking points but participation is not mandatory at the meetings. Anyone is welcome to sit and observe.

“I wanted organic conversations and I didn't want to be boxed in by questions because I feel like no one really knows how to answer something super specific,” said Priestley.

For Moore, who has followed the club from Santa Ana to Long Beach, it’s the club’s relaxed and social structure that continues to draw her in.

“Coming from someone who was an English major with literature discussions being kind of high stakes… I think that this club is super chill,” said Moore. “They kind of advertise it more as a social club and I think that's super cool because it's not super stressful.”

The next MnBC in-person meeting is at 7 p.m. on June 12 at The Art Theatre. The pick for the month will be “Call Me By Your Name” with a screening of the 2017 film starring Timothée Chalamet.

Tickets for the showing can be purchased here.

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