A Matinee with Willy Wonka

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Back in the 1950s, the Redford Theatre had Kiddie Cartoon Parties, with special Saturday afternoons of cartoons and other treats for children. A September 9, 2006 Redford showing of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory brought back memories of those days, complete with an audience that included many excited young boys and girls.

Organist John Lauter set the tone for this afternoon of fun with a lively pre-movie concert that included “Candy Man,” “Oompa Loompa,” and other songs from the movie. As he played, children wandered the theater, fascinated by a movie house that was nothing like the megaplexes where this past summer they might have seen Cars or Barnyard.

Soon, this magical movie spread across the Redford screen. Sounds of children in the movie often were echoed in the audience. Seeing this 1971 movie on the big screen helped you appreciate how it has grown into a modern classic not only for kids, but also for adults who have fond memories of seeing it when they were young. Appropriately, the Intermission curtain closed as Willy Wonka led the five lucky golden ticket holders and their guardians into the factory.

“Are you liking it?” an adult anxiously asked a young girl out in the lobby near the concession stand. It was fun to hear grownups talking with kids about the movie, re-living their own fun experiences, trying to transfer that good feeling to their children. In the theater, a young girl dragged an adult down to the organ to show them all the pedals used to make music. Later, that young girl had to be coaxed back to her seat by another adult.

The movie finished, and as patrons filed out, you could hear a child repeating the phrase, “I’m not a brat,” which described many of the children in this movie of many moral lessons. An adult whistled the poignant melody of “Pure Imagination”.

Saturday matinees at the Redford have a unique charm. Older visitors might be taken back to their youth, when they enjoyed rainy Saturday afternoons in the 1960s and 1970s at similar theaters.

The tone is generally quieter than at the evening showings, and it’s easy to feel a peaceful solitude as you’re watching the film. You generally see the same people working at matinees, which adds to the friendly familiarity of the theater. And after the movie, you’ve got the whole evening ahead of you.

So within the Redford, there’s a world of variety that can only be appreciated by attending shows at different times of the weekend.

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Copyright © 2006 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.


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