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By Allison Brophy Champion
Published: August 25, 2008
Classic Hollywood returns to Culpeper next Thursday with the “premiere” of one of many timeless films to be shown year-round in the movie theater at The Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audiovisual Conservation.
All movies are free and open to the public, or as Humphrey Bogart once said, “It’s, “The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.”
Bogart as Detective Sam Spade in “The Maltese Falcon” kicks off the highly anticipated series on Mount Pony with back-to-back showings of the 1941 Warner Bros. classic Sept. 4 and 5 at 7:30 p.m.
“The Wizard of Oz” plays on the big screen Saturday, Sept. 6 at 2 p.m.
From then on, classics like “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Gone With the Wind” will play three times a week: Tuesdays at 7p.m., Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday matinees at 2 p.m.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Greg Lukow, chief of the library’s Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, of Bogart’s role in the classic detective drama. “Look for the scene where he laughs and claps his hands together with this maniacal glee at a comment his secretary makes.”
Moviegoers will also want to have a look at their lush surroundings.
The 208-seat theater is Art Deco all the way down to the flowered carpet — the same as in the circa-1925 Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto, Calif. — up to the chandeliers, exact replicas of the fixtures in San Pedro’s Warner Grand Theatre, circa 1930s.
David Woodley Packard, a longtime supporter of audiovisual and theater conservation, played a major role in the look of the Culpeper theater even down to these smallest details. On a much larger scale, his Packard Humanities Institute donated $155 million toward construction of the Library of Congress facility in Culpeper.
“Besides preservation, (Packard) also has an interest in making sure these precious artifacts are available and accessible to the public in the best possible quality prints and best quality venues,” said Lukow, mentioning that Packard restored the Stanford and has been showing movies there since 1989.
When it comes to venue quality, that’s covered in Culpeper.
As for the prints, they all will come from the Library’s collection — new masters fashioned from original film reels.
Movies showing through the Nov. 22 schedule were selected from the National Film Registry, films recognized for their culture, history or aesthetic.
Mike Mashon, head of the Moving Images Section, said they decided to open the film series with NRF selections primarily because it highlights preservation, the main reason why the Culpeper facility exists.
The Library also tapped the Registry because it contains well-known titles aimed at a broad audience.
But how many people can say they’ve seen classics like 1933’s “King Kong” starring Fay Wray on the big screen? Now they can.
“There is nothing that compares to the experience of seeing them anew in the way they’re supposed to be enjoyed: in the dark, on a big screen with an audience,” Mashon said of the screen, which measures about 28-feet-wide by 20-feet-tall.
“So in that sense, we’re not only preserving films, but the theatrical experience as well.”
The theater on Mount Pony is “the perfect place to see classic American Hollywood,” added Rob Stone, curator with the Moving Images Section inside the theater last week.
“When you walk into this theater, that’s what I think. I don’t think of a sterile screening room. It is a miniature movie palace,” said Stone, who moved to Culpeper three weeks ago from California, where he was associate curator at the UCLA Film and Television Archive.
Practically speaking, the theater offers stadium seating so everyone gets a clear view of the screen, plenty of legroom and spaces for three wheelchairs.
An interesting contrast to its 1920 décor, however, is the state-of-the-art projection and sound equipment.
“It’s a very good system,” said Steve Guttag with Cardinal Sound & Motion Picture Systems of Maryland inside the projection room Friday. “It’s one of the highest functioning I’ve seen,” he added above the mechanical roar.
Guttag, who’s traveled the nation installing sound and picture systems, has been involved with the Mount Pony theater project for several years
He said the movies shown in Culpeper would be “at least 10 times fresher than what you would see in a typical cinema.”
“It’s really geared toward older films,” Guttag said as he worked on finishing touches. “You look at that screen out there it’s very square in shape compared to a modern theater so it’s got a really big advantage.”
The whole set-up is versatile as well, capable of playing any and all film formats, including the earliest type, nitrate.
In fact, the theater on Mount Pony is one of only five theaters in the entire country capable of showing classic prints on nitrate, as they would have been screened before 1950.
Twelve speakers embedded in each wall and five behind the screen will outdo in clarity and sound any home-based theater system and then some.
Projectionist David March, who moved to Culpeper three years ago from LA for the job on Mount Pony, admitted to being a bit nervous in anticipation of the big premier.
“There’s a lot of expectation,” he said, “but actually I’m quite thrilled to be a projectionist for this theater. For somebody who loves films, this is a dream: handling it, showing films they way they used to be shown.”
Old is new again in Culpeper.
“The quality of this system is going to allow the light, silvery black-and-whites and lusciousness of Technicolor color to come through in ways that people have generally forgotten,” Lukow added.
Although, some of Culpeper’s silver-haired generation may remember watching the classics downtown in the State Theatre, now under renovation, opened 1938 on Main Street.
Its first movie that year was “Sally, Irene and Mary” starring Jimmy Durante and Alice Faye.
“Bringing Up Baby” with Katharine Hepburn also debuted in 1938. It shows Sept. 23 on Mount Pony.
Allison Brophy Champion can be reached at 825-0771 ext. 101 or [email protected]
All you need to know about getting tickets:
The Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audiovisual Conservation at Mount Pony announces the premiere showing of its year-round free film series Sept. 4 and 5 with “The Maltese Falcon” at 7:30 p.m.
From then on, films will show three times a week: Tuesdays at 7 p.m., Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday matinees at 2.
Reservations for each show in the 208-seat theater, located on the facility’s first level, will be accepted one week in advance using an automated phone system.
To reserve a seat, call 540-827-1079 and then, when asked, enter extension 79994.
A phone message will instruct you to leave the following information: date(s) of the show(s) for which you would like reservations, film title, your name (speak clearly and repeat or spell your last name) and the number of seats desired — four seats per call, please.
The theater lobby will open 45 minutes before show time; stop by the kiosk to get your movie passes, using the same name you left on the phone message. The theater will open half-hour prior to each show.
All outstanding reservations will be canceled 10 minutes before the show is scheduled to start; you may not “save” seats for those arriving late.
For those who do not have a reservation, stop by the kiosk and ask for a numbered “stand-by” card. Ten minutes before show time, any available seats will be given to patrons holding these numbers.
Smoking is not permitted on the NAVCC Packard Campus. Food and drink are not allowed in the theater. Theatergoers of all ages are welcome, but children 12 and younger must be accompanied by an adult.
Here’s the schedule:
Sept. 4 — 7:30 p.m. The Maltese Falcon (Warner Bros, 1941)
Sept. 5 — 7:30 p.m. The Maltese Falcon (Warner Bros, 1941)
Sept. 6 — 2:00 p.m. The Wizard of Oz (MGM, 1939)
Sept. 9 — 7:00 p.m. Shane (Paramount, 1953)
Sept. 12 — 7:30 p.m. Singin’ in the Rain (MGM, 1952)
Sept. 13—2 p.m. King Kong (RKO, 1933)
Sept. 16 — 7:00 p.m. Morocco (Paramount, 1930)
Sept. 19 — 7:30 p.m. The Night of the Hunter (United Artists, 1955)
Sept. 20 — 2:00 p.m. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Walt Disney, 1937)
Sept. 23 — 7:00 p.m. Bringing Up Baby (RKO, 1938)
Sept. 26 — 7:30 p.m. Trouble in Paradise (Paramount, 1932)
Sept. 27 — 2:00 p.m. Gunga Din (RKO, 1939)
Sept. 30 — 7:00 p.m. Ninotchka (MGM, 1939)
Oct. 3 — 7:30 p.m. Shadow of a Doubt (Universal 1943)
Oct. 4 — 2:00 p.m. Duck Soup (Paramount, 1933)
Oct. 7 — 7:00 p.m. Out of the Past (RKO, 1947)
Oct. 10 — 7:30 p.m. Casablanca (Warner Bros, 1943)
Oct. 11 — 2:00 p.m. 42nd Street (Warner Bros, 1933)
Oct. 14 — 7:00 p.m. Adam’s Rib (MGM, 1949)
Oct. 17 — 7:30 p.m. All About Eve (20th Century-Fox, 1950)
Oct. 18 — 2:00 p.m. Lassie Comes Home (MGM, 1943)
Oct. 21 — 7:00 p.m. High Noon (United Artists, 1952)
Oct. 24 — 7:30 p.m. The Bank Dick (Universal, 1940)
Oct. 25 — 2:00 p.m. Gone With the Wind (MGM, 1939)
Oct. 28 — 7:00 p.m. The Grapes of Wrath (20th Century-Fox, 1939)
Oct. 31 — 7:30 p.m. The Bride of Frankenstein (Universal, 1935)
Nov. 1 — 2:00 p.m. The Day the Earth Stood Still (20th Cen-tury-Fox, 1951)
Nov. 4 — 7:00 p.m. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Columbia, 1939)
Nov. 7 — 7:30 p.m. Love Me Tonight (Paramount, 1932)
Nov. 8 — 2:00 p.m. Pinocchio (Walt Disney – RKO, 1940)
Nov. 11 — 7:00 p.m. All Quiet on the Western Front (Universal, 1930)
Nov. 14 — 7:30 p.m. Letter From An Unknown Woman (Universal, 1948)
Nov. 15 — 2:00 p.m. His Girl Friday (Columbia, 1939)
Nov. 18 — 7:00 p.m. City Lights (United Artists, 1931)
Nov. 21 — 7:30 p.m. Top Hat (RKO, 1935)
Nov. 22 — 2:00 p.m. Yankee Doodle Dandy (Warners Bros, 1943)
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