Orpheum Theatre film series begins with ‘Big Chill’

01/10/2013 1:44 PM

01/10/2013 1:44 PM

The Orpheum Theatre makes time traveling simple.

Each month, audience members can visit a different decade as they view a classic film on the theatre’s extra-large 40-foot screen as part of the historic theater’s 2013 film series.

From the 1953 hit “Roman Holiday” to 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan,” the historic theater’s annual film series — which begins on Thursday with a showing of 1983’s “The Big Chill” — showcases a variety of genres throughout the year.

“It’s just a wonderful venue to see classic films,” said Jennifer Wright, the president of the Orpheum. “It gives you that nostalgic, warm feeling.”

For the past three years, the theatre, with the help of co-sponsor Emprise Bank, has screened film classics that are celebrating an anniversary. “The Big Chill,” about a group of 30-something college friends who get together for a buddy’s funeral, turns 30 this year. It stars Glenn Close and Kevin Kline.

The film series brings these classics back to the screen to celebrate big birthdays. The staff choose from movies that will have an anniversary on either the five- or 10-year multiple. They discuss the selections, and Wright makes the final selections.

“We try to have a nice mix from different eras,” Wright said. “I also like to have themes.”

The first movie of the season, “The Big Chill” was chosen specifically for January and the cold weather. “Cleopatra” was picked for the February Valentine’s Day theme, while “Grease,” which turns 35 this year, was chosen to correspond with graduation season in May. This year, the film series will traverse decades by offering 1933’s “King Kong” and Steven Spielberg’s hit “Saving Private Ryan.” Organizers avoid any movies made after 1999. And the Christmas movies are excused from the anniversary format.

“For now, we have decided to rotate three classic Christmas movies: ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ and ‘White Christmas,’ ” Wright said. “We get a huge turnout for these classic holiday films.”

Wright and Chris Wren-Rizza, the theater’s house manager and film technician, also enjoy singing along with the 400 to 600 moviegoers who typically show up to each screening as a bouncing ball moves across the screen on the old fashioned sing-along previews that are shown before each featured picture.

“We play the old-timey classic cartoons that you might have seen in the ’40s and ’50s,” Wren-Rizza said.

Wright said the film-series gets a good cross-section of the population, with a lot of children attending for the Christmas movies in December.

“We would love to grow the film series,” Wright said. “It’s great to see people enjoying the theatre.”

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