THERE WAS A TIME when going to the picture show was quite an excursion.
Whole families got gussied up for those outings, anxiously anticipating seeing the stars of their day shining brightly on the silver screen. Popcorn, soda pop and hard candy was de rigueur, and for many in the South (especially those with lower incomes), the air conditioning in these movie houses made for a welcome respite from the summer heat and humidity.
These days, DVD technology, home theater systems and cookie cutter multiplexes have eroded most traces of the old-school cinematic experience, but over the past few years, the Savannah Film Society, based out of the historic Lucas Theatre, has strived to turn back the clock and revive that glorious tradition not only for those able to remember it firsthand, but those for whom it’s a completely new experience.
Helmed by the Lucas’ Managing Director Meaghan Walsh, the Savannah Film Society has just launched its third annual Summer Film Series, which finds a wide assortment of older and more recent features (plus one brand-new release) being shown on weekend nights though July at both the Lucas (opened in 1921) and around the corner at Trustees Theater (formerly the Weis Theater, opened in 1946).
According to Walsh, the management of both venues —each of which regularly presents live music, theater, dance and comedy acts— collaborated on this lineup of classics and critically-acclaimed sleepers in an effort to provide local residents with a unique entertainment option.
“Summertime is when the Lucas has the most open dates,” she says. “But we try to maintain a year-round film presence. Our Summer Series focuses on revivals of classics, because people are in vacation mode and those go better with ‘family time’.”
The 2008 Series’ first feature, the 1954 Audrey Hepburn vehicle Sabrina, was a great success, drawing over 320 people.
And although she was already familiar with the film, Walsh says watching it in a large, balconied theater as it was intended to be seen gave her a much greater appreciation for the movie.
“We try to choose classic films people have probably already seen on TV or video — they might even be old favorites. What’s different is seeing it on a screen 25 feet tall and 40 feet wide. And, while inviting ten friends to your house for movie night is certainly fun, with several hundred people in a room, there’s an extra element of magic.”
Those who know the Lucas only as a concert hall may be surprised at how marvelous a venue it is for watching films. Walsh says that’s intentional.
“It was built originally as a grand movie house, and designed around elegance and comfort. That tradition really comes alive when we show an old movie. It’s like taking a trip back in time, and you can easily imagine what it was like back in its heyday. We have ushers, and a big curtain that comes down and up to signal the start of the film. It’s very theatrical! (laughs)”
She encourages the public to keep tabs on upcoming SFS films online.
“They can check online (myspace.com/savfilmsociety) for schedule updates, and are more than welcome to suggest movies they think would make a good addition to our series. I’ll check to see if they’re right for the Lucas, or even available to us.”Schedule: The Savannah Film Society’s 2008 Summer Film Series: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy (2005) - June 20, Lucas Theatre Road to Morocco (1945) - June 21, Lucas Theatre (David Mamet's) Redbelt (2008) - June 27, Lucas Theatre The Pink Panther (1964) - June 28, Lucas Theatre Ghostbusters (1984) - July 5, Trustees Theater Cradle Will Rock (1999) - July 11, Lucas Theatre Bob Roberts (1992) - July 12, Lucas Theatre Young Frankenstein (1974) - July 19, Trustees Theater (Alfred Hitchcock’s) The Birds (1963, USA) - July 25, Trustees Theater Times: All films begin at 7 pm Cost: $8 for gen. public, $6 for seniors & military, and $4 w/SCAD ID at 525-5050, lucastheatre.com or the venue Tickets: lucastheatre.com or 525-5050