John Vanco leaves IFC Center for Netflix to lead Paris, Egypt

The longtime CEO of the New York art institution will lead Netflix’s New York and Los Angeles theaters.

Longtime IFC Center vice president and general manager John Vanco is leaving his post at the Manhattan arthouse institution to lead programming at all of Netflix’s theaters. These include the Paris Theater in New York, the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles, and the Bay Theater in Pacific Palisades. starts on April 10.

It will focus on Netflix programming at the Egyptian Theatre, which is undergoing extensive renovations. Originally known as Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, the iconic venue opened in 1922. As the home of the American Cinematheque, the theater began to decline. It was purchased by Netflix in May 2020, but a reopening date after the renovation has not been announced.

The Paris Theater in Manhattan, located next door to the Plaza Hotel, has been home to Netflix shows for years, especially because it’s a theatrical screening of Netflix’s award-winning titles for voters. It is currently being programmed by David Schwartz, former chief curator of the Museum of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who will remain until April and oversee the Presents: Next Generation series at the Venice Film Festival.

Vanco has operated the IFC Center since 2005. Prior to that, he held leadership roles in film distribution and exhibition, including boutique distributor New Yorker Films. Under Vanco’s leadership, the IFC Center has become one of the city’s hottest movie venues with a combination of new releases (often from distributor IFC), repertory programming and renewals, live Q&As, and midnight screenings. These can range from a restored print of “Dead Man” or a screening of the movie “Dawson City: Frozen Time” with live music to a selection of short films.

As a member of senior management at IFC Films, he was involved in the acquisition, marketing and release strategies of ‘Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days’, ‘Boyhood’, ‘The Death of Stalin’, ‘The Babadook’. and much more. The way he ran the IFC Center showed an uncanny ability to balance the interests of the parent company (AMC Networks, which owns IFC) with what he knew would be most attractive to cinephiles—a balance Netflix needed to realize with their own theaters, a truly unique skill that he practically possesses alone.

He was a familiar figure at the Center, whether he was holding court, holding Q&As, introducing himself or hanging out in the lobby to make sure attendees knew where to go. (Thinking deeply about the film landscape, he spoke to me about the lack of viability of the NC-17 rating in a BBC World News segment I hosted.)

Vanco attends all major festivals and combines the spirit of a business leader with the spirit of a true cinephile. It’s a rare combination, and a crowd packed the IFC Center proves its power. While other Manhattan venues struggle with attendance, lines for the IFC Center often stretched along Sixth Avenue. IFC has also created something that only Film Forum manages, among other NYC representations: a real culture, right down to the ubiquitous Cinemetal T-shirts sold at the box office. (This writer has an Ingmar Bergman t-shirt.)

Its move to Netflix bodes well for these theaters, but now the question is: who will run the IFC Center? There’s the center’s film programmer, Harris Dew, as one of the contestants. And Schwartz himself, who returned to guest-show at a recent MoMI, might be another.

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