Programming at the Colony Theatre, published by The Marietta Register, November 26, 2008
By guest columnist R. Hunt Brawley, J.D.
Director, Hippodrome/Colony Historical Theatre Association
Column No. 4
In early November I had the pleasure of attending a League of Historic American Theatres conference at the Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor (Yes, Buckeye fans, home of the evil empire now licking its wounds). The conference was titled Film Exhibition in the 21st Century: A Programming Forum for Historic Theatres.
The conference was extremely helpful in shaping a very important niche in the future programming at the Colony Theatre. When we first embarked on the restoration efforts at the Colony, I was often asked So what are you going to do with the theatre? Show film? My answer was always a tepid, Well yes, but the real strength of the Colony is for large stage shows and live musical productions. I cant say we were dismissive of film, but we did not believe film to be the most significant aspect of future programming at the Colony. The Michigan conference changed our views somewhat, and persuaded us to look at film in a different light (currently our operational forecast has film programming at about twenty percent).
The Michigan Theatre conference and especially its Director, Russ Collins, really emphasized that film is a unique art form and an important part of the programming for any historic theatre. In Mr. Collins opinion, film is one of the three great American contributions to the art world (Jazz and Musical Theatre being the other two). The Michigan Theatre takes great pains to present film the way it should be presented, no cropping, no false colorization, and no transfer onto DVD or other alteration in any way. If the film is Lawrence of Arabia in the extra wide 70 mm format instead of the standard 35mm, the Michigan Theatre presents the film in 70 mm. The Michigan is blessed with an amazing projection room that has not only a rare 70 mm projector, but also twin 35 mm projectors, a state of the art digital projector, and a classic 16 mm for foreign and other off-beat films. Not everybody has such wide film presentation capacity, but many historic theatres can still present many of the classics in their original wide screen ratio. The Colony was always a great place to see a film and with a thirty two foot wide proscenium, it will continue be Mariettas Foremost Amusement House, when it comes to movies.
It is amazing how few opportunities there are to see many of these classic films the way they were meant to be seen After seeing the Wizard of OZ on television every year for most of my life, a few years ago I saw it at the classic movie palace, The Senator Theatre, in Baltimore. They had an organist open before the show and presented the movie in its original format on the wide screen. Does anybody remember how they used to start movies with the grand drape opening as the show began? It was absolutely a different experience and so much more enjoyable it is hard to describe.
Before the conference, I had not heard the term repertory film, but like repertory theatre, repertory film is the term used for the inventory or body of existing film that is shown repeatedly over time. Many of the panelists representing theatres across the country show Casablanca, Wizard of OZ, Gone With the Wind and many other classics every year, and every year they are some of the most popular shows screened. Many of these historic theatres add costume parties, organ recitals, short film or classic cartoon clips to their features to enhance the classic movie experience. Historic theatres might also a screen a series such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones or possibly everything by Directors Stanley Kubrick or Milos Forman. One theatre even had a DeLorean car convention as part of the Back to the Future series.
The Colony will be a great place to see these classic films in their original format, but there will be plenty of other film possibilities. (Well, technically they might be digital versions of the original 35mm films, but that discussion is way too complicated to adequately address in a single column). With so many movies being produced, there are plenty of films that never make it to the our regional cinemas and the Colony will try to find the many excellent films that are not typically screened in our area. Whenever possible, we would like to showcase a film along with its Producer, like we did during the Colony Filmfest with Parkersburg native, Pam Tanner Boll, and her wonderful documentary film, Who Does She Think She Is?
One of the most important lessons I learned from the conference is that Beer is Karma. I realize many people think they already know that Beer is Karma, and there are probably plenty of folks who believe that beer is absolutely not Karma, but the lesson is much broader. Even with film, having receptions with beer and wine is important, not just in helping with concession sales, but in building camaraderie and developing a community gathering. With kids and a matinee, it could be Candy and Clowns are Karma. With other groups it could be something specifically without alcohol. Basically, its about building a sense of community. The Colony Theatre will present film with the care such an iconic American art form deserves, and will do its best to build a community of film lovers.
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