Discovering Columbus

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If you’d like to take your moviegoing habits on the road this summer, just three hours away in Columbus, Ohio are a wide variety of film experiences that can be enjoyed by any regular patron of the Detroit Film Theatre, Michigan Theater, or Redford Theatre.

The Ohio Theatre is Columbus’s version of Detroit’s Fox Theatre—a massively large old movie palace that hosts a wide variety of entertainments, like touring Broadway shows and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. The 2,779-seat Ohio opened in 1928—the same year as the Fox, Michigan, and Redford—and it has a spectacular Spanish Baroque design that amazed me when I first saw it from the balcony level.

Another highlight of the Ohio schedule is the annual Summer Movie Series, which runs from June to August. When I saw My Man Godfrey there last summer, it brought back the grand feeling of the Fox Theatre movie series of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The presentation is almost identical to a Redford show, with a Morton theater organ providing entertainment before the movie and during an intermission.

The Ohio is part of a group of theaters in Columbus which have been preserved by an enterprising group called CAPA. When American Theatre Organ Society president Ken Double appeared at the 80th anniversary celebration of the Redford in April 2008, he mentioned the Redford and Ohio as examples of venues which theater organ enthusiasts helped save.

Cinevent

Hardcore movie buffs who find no nugget of film history too obscure often head to the Cinevent Classic Film Convention in Columbus every Memorial Day weekend. You can indulge yourself in a Dealer’s Room that is filled with sellers of all kinds of movie memorabilia, including books, magazines, and video.

And you can also enjoy a continuous series of old movies, including little-known gems, and silent films accompanied by a piano player. As you watch the flickering images on the small screen, and listen to the intimate notes of the piano, with the whir of the projector right behind you, it almost feels like you’re back in the early days of moviegoing, before larger theaters were built. In previous years, the accompanists have included David Drazin, who has played many times at the Detroit Film Theatre.

I attended the final day of Cinevent last year, and the movies included the 1943 musical comedy Sarong Girl, which featured Irene Ryan many years before she became famous as Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies. After the last movie, the audience turned around and gave a standing ovation to the projectionists who had kept the images moving for four days.

Columbus also includes two other alternative movie theaters that I haven’t visited yet, but look interesting. These theaters have year-round programming.

  • The Wexner Center for the Arts includes a film program that runs many of the specialty art films that often have their Detroit area premiere at the DFT, and later play at the Michigan. It is currently hosting the Charlie Chaplin series that earlier this year played at the Michigan. It also has a Film History 101 series that looks similar to the DFT 101 programs.
  • The Drexel Theatre screens the more mainstream art films that in southeast Michigan usually play at the Michigan and the Landmark Theatres (Main, Maple). It includes special events like a 24-hour science fiction marathon.

You can easily reach all of this moviegoing enjoyment by driving some combination of I-75 and US 23, depending on your starting point.

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Copyright © 2011 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.

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