Victoria Theatre film series makes movies cool
By Chelsea Davis
In a time before big blockbusters and crazy special effects, going to the movies was a special and fondly-remembered affair. Dayton’s Victoria Theatre hopes to recapture the history and nostalgia of the movies with the Cool Films Series, which began Friday, July 4. This program, which began years ago, brings 35 millimeter movie prints back into the lives of the movie-going public.
“What we’re really celebrating is film on print, and we try to show them on 35 mm [film] if we can help it,” Gary Minyard, vice president of education and engagement for the Victoria Theatre Association, said. “It’s a great evolution of nostalgia and history.”
The series offers moviegoers the chance to see films from various generations they may have loved dearly, or may have never even seen. This isn’t just a film series for old black-and-whites, but a series for all “cool” films over the course of the film industry’s 70-plus-year lifespan. That being said, most of the films in the series predate the aughts, due to the rise in digital film production, as opposed to 35mm film production.
“People are coming to watch and we want to give them the highest quality films,” Minyard said. “But it also limits us. There’s a finite numbers of prints available. Films made in the last 10 years aren’t on print anymore.”
That’s not say the Cool Films Series doesn’t occasionally offer a digital film, but with only a 35 mm projector, quality is lost when showing a digital film. As for changing out the projector, Minyard mentioned it could happen down the line, but it is highly expensive and not in the theater’s near future.
“There’s something really nice about the fact you can tell it’s on film,” Minyard said. “We don’t want it to feel like you’re in the neighborhood and someone is projecting on the side of the house.”
The Victoria Theatre is over 100 years old, and that history creates a certain nostalgic aesthetic and atmosphere; especially when the patrons see a huge screen dropped down just in front of the proscenium arch.
“It’s very unique to be able to come to the Victoria Theatre and see a film,” Minyard said, “And to be around the atmosphere of the theatre is a different experience.”
Minyard and the rest of the staff try to pick and schedule movies based on guest surveys, as well as films the staff deems must-sees, provided those movies are also available on 35 mm film.
“There have been instances where the catalog shows something is available, but then the movie house can’t find it,” Minyard said. “Some of these catalogs are huge.”
After picking the films for the series, Minyard carefully places them on the schedule and makes sure to schedule things that complement one another either back-to-back or together.
“We’re starting with ‘Rebel Without A Cause,’ which was made in 1955,” Minyard said. “Then we’re following it up with the Rock Hudson-Doris Day film, ‘Pillow Talk,’ which was made in 1959, but it has a ’60s feel.”
The series will continue with the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, before spinning back around to the 1930s.
In addition to the regularly scheduled films every weekend at 7 p.m., this year the Victoria Theatre is offering a Family Films matinee some Thursdays at 10 a.m.
“It’s open to everyone and everything is rated G,” Minyard said. It’s also something to do during the day, especially for all of the camps.”
Some of the programming for the Family Films matinee includes “Muppet Treasure Island” and “Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory.” The latter garnered such a huge response from the patrons that the Victoria Theatre added an evening showing of the film.
The Cool Films Series will also incorporate Reel Late cult films for a few Saturdays at 10:30 p.m. this summer. They begin with “Toxic Avenger,” then “The Big Lebowski” and “Psycho.”
“I’m not going to lie, I’m really excited about ‘The Big Lebowski,’” Minyard said. “And ‘Toxic Avenger.’”
On the cult movie nights, there is also a 7 p.m. regular showing, and Minyard has made it easier on the patrons to stay for both by getting local food trucks to come, as well as providing other enticing features like specialty cocktails.
“A lot of people will come for both films and we encourage that, that’s why we have the food trucks,” Minyard said. “Dayton Cocktail Company is providing drinks on the second floor mezzanine and for ‘Psycho’ there’s going to be an array of different kinds of Bloody Mary’s.”
Minyard also highly encourages people to get involved with the film screenings. He mentioned for the showing of “Night of the Living Dead” last year, people came dressed up as zombies, zombie hunters and anything else in the zombie-verse, including “The Walking Dead” characters.
“We want people to get involved and have a good time for these late nights,” Minyard said. “For ‘Toxic Avenger’ maybe it’ll be their favorite ghoul, or for ‘The Big Lebowski’ we’ll see a bunch of bowling shirts.”
“The Big Lebowski” is showing on the same night as “Star Trek 2: The Wrath Khan” and Minyard wonders which movie the guests will dress up for. Or you could see “Spock in a bowling shirt” as Minyard speculated.
The Victoria Theatre’s Cool Films Series offers people an array of films to choose from, spanning different eras, subject matter and genres, with the added bonus of the traditional, magical movie-going experience.
“It’s been around for a long time,” Minyard said. “It’s a great series, great nostalgia and these trends seem to influence the series in a way our live performances just don’t do.”
The Cool Films Series runs through August 31. For more information about the schedule and ticket prices, which range from $3 to $35 for a ticket passbook, please visit victoriatheatre.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer By Chelsea Davis at ChelseaDavis@DaytonCityPaper.com.