Hot summer, cool films

Victoria Theatre Association stays cool with new films and partnership

By CC Hutten

Photo: The Victoria Theatre Association screens “Motel Hell” on July 18 as part of the Cool Films Series

The Victoria Theatre Association’s summer Cool Films Series is titled “cool” for good reason. And this year, VTA has partnered with Summer in the City to bring Dayton residents and visitors the most exciting Dayton summer experience yet.

The Cool Films Series may not have had its name since its origination, but for decades, it’s boasted a reputation of providing movies in 35mm film that are acclaimed as historical, meaningful and, often times, rare.

“Nowadays, you can see any title online,” says Sue Stevens, vice president of marketing and communications and programming team member at VTA. “Netflix, Roku, etc… there’s lots of different ways to pull it up on devices. But it’s a totally different experience to come down to the gorgeous historic Victoria Theatre, see these titles on a big screen in 35mm. The quality is just different. There’s warmth. Depending on your seat, you can hear the projector, just one of the details that add to the movie.”

This is not an experience someone can get at home—unless someone happens to own a historic 35mm projector and the rights to a stack of classic films in mint condition.

“A lot more goes into this than people think,”  says Michelle Prichard, director of contracts and licensing at VTA. “People don’t want to see us move away from 35mm because there’s an ambiance here. It’s not from a computer.”

The programming board for The Cool Films Series chose films based on audience feedback from surveys and availability of the movies in 35mm formatting.

“‘American Graffiti’ came from the survey,” Prichard says. “The survey helps us gauge what kind of titles, genre, directors audiences are looking for. Despite their demand, however, we pace ourselves on the iconic titles like ‘Casablanca’ or ‘Gone With the Wind.’”

One director who is particularly popular among the surveys is Alfred Hitchcock, who the board often includes  in the series. This year, audiences can expect the not-so-famous but just as terrifying “Notorious” during the late night series Reel Late at the Vic on Saturday nights.

VTA navigates decades of film by trying to offer a little of something for everyone: musicals, significant movie anniversaries, thrillers, dramas, comedies, children’s titles and more.

While the series is generally for adults, last year—per request by the audiences—VTA started a mini family film series within the Cool Films Series on Thursday mornings for family outings and day-camp groups.

“We include it in the brochure and leave it up to patrons to decide what movies to take their children to,” Stevens says.

Other notable titles are “12 Angry Men,” the original “Mad Max” and anniversary titles “Back to the Future” and “Jaws.”

But, as with all cool things, maintaining a reputation comes with challenges.

“As we get more and more into the digital age of movie making, fewer and fewer 35mm prints are available,” Prichard says. “They decay, turn into goop without proper attention and historical preservation. Many film collections are out there… you just can’t find them anymore.”

Another challenge is one that almost all organizations are familiar with: funding.

“To go digital would cost tons of money we don’t have,” Stevens says. “And sometimes the state of the film is questionable, and ownership of the rights keeps changing. But it’s really a treasure hunt to find those great film titles that we can still get 35mm print of.”

Every year, however, VTA overcomes these trials, continually broadening its audience for the Cool Films Series.

“For the most part, the audience used to be baby boomers to senior citizens. As we diversified the titles, including those older, classic titles, with newer titles, it brings in a bigger audience,” Stevens says. “It’s a balancing act. We show titles our original audience likes, mixed with titles to attract a new audience.”

Gaining a more diverse audience is not the only thing changing for the decades-old series—this year, the Cool Films Series is “joining forces” with Downtown Dayton’s Summer in the City celebration.

“We thought, ‘Let’s link arms to make a bigger splash,’” Stevens says.

Summer in the City, a replacement for the big, biannual Urban Nights event, is a Dayton celebration for residents and visitors.

“There’s always a portion of the population that’s going to say there’s nothing to do in Dayton,” Stevens says. “And I just want to hit ’em upside the head because there’s so much to do. Summer in the City and the Cool Film Series really illustrate that… outdoors, sports, movies, music, arts. There’s something for everyone. It doesn’t matter what age you are. We want to put focus on downtown, and the film series is a big part of that.”

Along with classic 35mm films, the Cool Films Series offers free popcorn and soda in the lobby prior to regular showings and Reel Late at the Vic showings, starting one hour prior to show time, a free theatre organ concert 30 minutes prior to show time for all regular showings and a free cartoon prior to all regular showings.

“Victoria Theatre brings people downtown, contributing greatly to the Dayton economy year round,” Stevens says. “And this summer is no exception.”

The Victoria Theater Association’s Cool Film Series in partnership with Summer in the City begins Thursday, July 9 at 10 a.m. Individual film tickets are $3 for Family Films and $6 for all other films. Ten-ticket passbooks are $35 and can be used in any combination across all 15 movies. Individual tickets are available day-of-show at the Victoria Theatre box office, beginning one hour prior to show time. Passbooks are available through Ticket Center Stage and can be purchased at the Schuster Center box office in downtown Dayton or by phone at 937.228.3630, or toll-free at 888.228.3630. For more information and a complete list of films, please visit or


Reach DCP freelance writer CC Hutten at

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Reach DCP freelance writer CC Hutten at

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