Arts & Entertainment

Leader of independent Tropic Cinema is stepping down

Matthew Helmerich started as a volunteer in 2007.
Matthew Helmerich started as a volunteer in 2007.

Key West's Tropic Cinema today announced that its executive director, Matthew Helmerich, would resign in August. Helmerich has headed the nonprofit cinema for seven years.

"I love the Tropic," Helmerich said. "I'm a little biased but I believe it's one of the most influential, community-centered cultural nonprofits in Monroe County. It has certainly changed our town for the better since we opened 12 years ago."

Helmerich, 59, said he will work more closely with his family's Oklahoma-based private foundation but will remain in Key West.

Helmerich joined the Tropic as a volunteer board member in 2007 and became the executive director in 2009. He has seen and overseen substantial changes at the popular multiplex at 416 Eaton St.

The Tropic opened its fourth auditorium, the Peggy Dow Theater, in 2010 and redesigned its Sussman Lounge and Zabar Concessions Cafe a year later.

In 2011, the cinema converted from 35 millimeter to Digital Cinema Initiative projection. The Tropic Cinema is known for screening wide-release and independent films and for its broad range of alternative content.

A local and national search for Helmerich's replacement will begin in the coming weeks.