It never used to be that “revival screening” films would make their way to Wichita movie theaters, and that frustrated longtime movie buff Leif Jonker.
Sure, you could watch classic – or just odd and noteworthy – films such as “Meatballs,” “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” at home, but that experience comes nowhere close to seeing it projected on a big screen, Jonker said.
Jonker, a local filmmaker himself, formed the Big Screen Initiative to help bring special “revival screenings” to Wichita, and is about to host his fifth year of “October at the Oldtown Horrorfest.” Every Monday and Tuesday in October, classic horror films will be shown at the Old Town Warren Theatre at 7 p.m.
On Saturday, the 13th Avenue Warren will host a screening of “Phantasm: Remastered,” as part of nationwide Art House Theater Day – a screening Jonker considers “the culmination of all my efforts in all the local theaters,” he said.
“Phantasm: Remastered” is a 4K frame-by-frame restoration of the 1979 horror film “Phantasm” done by J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot Productions. According to Jonker, the project was a “labor of love” for Abrams and his FX team, which worked on the project in off hours while working on “Star Trek Beyond” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Don Coscarelli, the original director/writer/producer of “Phantasm,” supervised and approved the process.
The film is playing at 8:45 p.m. Saturday in the Warren’s Auditorium 13. Tickets are $7. As of Wednesday, 172 seats were still available for the showing. An encore presentation is planned for Oct. 6 at the Old Town Warren, 353 N. Mead.
Jonker said he has a bit of a personal attachment to “Phantasm,” seeing it for the first time when he was 12 years old on HBO “Late Night,” before the channel was available 24/7.
“It was simply unlike any other horror film I had ever seen, or can even think of today,” Jonker wrote in an e-mail to The Eagle. “It is full-tilt horror, but it blends science-fiction, action, adventure, other dimensions, alien worlds, bizarro dream logic, humor and experimental narrative structure – all packed in with its roaring fright factor centered around suburban small-town U.S.A. To say it blew my young mind is an understatement.”
Coscarelli, the mind behind the original “Phantasm,” was also involved in bringing it to Wichita, as he and Jonker have met in the past.
“It may be hard to believe, but I’ve been working for months to make sure this show took place, and without all this effort it never would have happened,” Jonker said. “There are many, many heartbroken ‘phans’ in bigger cities than Wichita that are not getting a local screening.”
Besides Wichita, Kansas City, Tulsa and Iowa City are the next-closest cities the film is playing in.
After the film, Jonker hopes to be able to stream a live Q&A session with original “Phantasm” actors A. Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, Bill Thornbury and Kathy Lester.
After this year’s “October at the Oldtown Horrorfest,” Jonker said he will likely stop devoting so much of his time to bringing special screenings to Wichita. His group, the Wichita Big Screen Initiative, is up to almost 1,900 members on Facebook, and he feels comfortable passing on the reins, he said.
“Five years is a good round number and I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished, but I simply don’t have the free time to volunteer anymore,” he said, adding that he estimated he’s spent thousands of volunteer hours working to bring special screenings to Wichita since he began. “Wichita Big Screen will stay on Facebook and will continue to announce and promote special screenings in the area. I wholeheartedly believe the Horrorfest will continue for many years to come under the management at the Warren, and I’ll still likely make a few suggestions here and there as well. We’ve created some great momentum for these revival screenings and I’m hopeful that it will continue to increase every year.”
For more information about the Wichita Big Screen Initiative, check the group out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/wichitabigscreen.
When: 8:45 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24
Where: 13th Avenue Warren, 11611 E. 13th St.
What: Screening of the 1979 horror film “Phantasm,” as remastered by J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot Productions
How much: $7
Tickets can be purchased online at www.warren-ticketing.com/eastwarren; select “Phantasm” among Saturday’s showtimes. They can also be purchased at the box office.