Today, I was reading my GWTW google alert and found the following article, Old palace theaters saved in the South: Will Houston join in before everything's gone with the wind? I was so disturbed by the tone, quotes, and point of view of the article that I had to write this response.
Throughout the article, the author and those whom he chooses to quote, imply that historical theaters have no purpose for screening of classic films. " Becker knows too many urban theaters have slipped into dark and decay. People don’t go downtown into huge theaters to watch Gone with the Wind on a big screen. Suburban multi-screen movie theaters edged out the big dinosaurs long ago."
I could not more profoundly disagree with Mr. Becker. Classic films are constantly being shown around the country. In fact, in Texas where Mr. Becker is from, a wonderful theater called the Paramount Theater ran over 100 different classic films this summer, including Gone With the Wind; which they chose to use as two-showing grand finale! As the film screenings page of Olivia de Havilland: Lady of the Classic Cinema shows, over 36 showings of Gone With the Wind, alone, occured in 14 different states and in a multitude of historical classic theaters within those states from March - November, 2010!
Going to see a classic film in a historical theater is not going to be the same experience as a teenage date night. People buy tickets early to these screenings, dress up for the screenings, and plan an entire evening around the experience of seeing a classic film in a historical theater. It is special and only a historical theater can treat the audience and film with the respect that each deserves - as I documented in my August blog about seeing GWTW at the Alabama Theater!
Those who are classic fans want to see these films as they were originally intended, in a huge theater, with a huge screen, and maybe a Wurlitzer thrown in for good measure. It seems from my recent experiences at The Tennessee Theater where they are screening "It's a Wonderful Life" for Christmas, The Alabama Theater, where an entire Christmas Classic film series will be shown, and The Orpheum Theater, as well as the research that I've done to compile information about the classic film showings of Olivia de Havilland, there are enough other people like me in cities and towns across this country that demand classic films to be shown in historical theaters. Those fans will attend the showings, pay the admission, which is often cheaper than the multi-plex, and enjoy the experience in their local historical theater!
The news article concludes with an equally disturbing statement, "Big movie palaces aren’t needed for film exhibitions any more. But perhaps redevelopment projects like the Saenger and the Plaza can show us why these theater buildings need to be saved and how they can be adapted for other uses."
Dismissing the idea that a historical theaters should never be utilized for the purpose of screening any films, is absolutely preposterous! Ironically, The Orpheum Theater, which is pointed out in the article as an example of a successful restoration and utilization of space, has an annual summer film festival! At the Orpheum, contemporary films are shown on Thursday evening and classics are shown on Friday night. This summer, I attended their showing of Casablanca and the house was filled nearly to capacity. Additionally, it was at that showing that the head of the Board of Directors of the Orpheum announced plans to extend the classic portion of the film festival to a year-round event! Thankfully, The Orpheum Theater seems to have no issue or problem with showing classic films!
Classic film screenings can be an important part of the annual operating schedule and budget of a theater. For less than 10 dollars a person a classic film screening can fill a historical theater and give an audience member a special evening at that theater that may motivate them to invest in tickets to more expensive future events such as ballets, operas, or touring broadway, in the exact same theater. In other cases, a classic film experience, may be the only time that an audience member can afford to attend an event in their historical theater; which is often restored or operated with tax payer money!
Films, and especially classic films, were made to be seen in the theater and audiences want to have the opportunity to see those films in the theater! I want to return to the film which was named at the beginning of this article, and happens to be my personal favorite, Gone With the Wind. Gone With the Wind was made to be seen in front of an audience on a HUGE screen! This is evident from the beginning, where the words blaze across the screen, to the end, where Scarlett tells us, "after all tomorrow is another day." If you haven't ever sat in a red-velvet seat and simultaneously shared the experience with hundreds (or maybe thousands) of people and watched those King Kong sets burn as Scarlett, Rhett, Melanie, and Prissy barely escape out of Atlanta, then you've never seen Gone with the Wind. Everything in GWTW is amplified in a historical theater and no experience outside of the historical theater can match seeing this film as it was originally intended, in the way it was originally intended, in a historical theater! So, do yourself a favor support your local theater when they run classic films, take the kids to see the classic films at the theater, ask your theater to run your favorite classic film (you might be surprised and they'll do it), and enjoy the experience! Finally, if you're looking for Gone With the Wind, you can check out my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/gwtwshowtimes!
Let the film begin!
Angela Danovi is a 32-year old blog writer focusing on Gone With the Wind, classic films, and the life and career of Olivia de Havilland. She sees Gone With the Wind, annually, in a historical theater