Two young children, all dressed in red, bounced happily on their feet. They anxiously awaited the arrival of the model train through a snow-covered tunnel in a miniature town set up at the front of the Redford Theatre auditorium.
At the Michigan Theater, gleeful children with Santa Claus caps bounded up the elegant staircase of the Grand Foyer, excited about seeing a movie from the balcony.
The Christmas 2006 movie season at the Redford and Michigan came to a stirring climax on the weekend of December 15-17. Patrons were treated to films that showed the hopeful spirit of Christmas triumphing over cynicism and unsentimental realism.
A Redford Christmas
Children of all ages stood captivated by the glittering lights of the miniature village through which a model steam engine pulled its load. To their right stood a brightly ornamented Christmas tree. To their left, organist John Lauter belted out holiday tunes in both light-hearted and serious arrangements.
On this December 16 evening, the Redford Theatre stage behind all of this activity held the backdrops for the previous weekend’s Christmas music concert—a toy horse, a tin soldier, Christmas tree bulbs, and several colorful gift boxes.
Soon, David Martin of the Motor City Theatre Organ Society was on stage, introducing the evening’s film—Scrooge, a 1970 version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Martin thanked the MCTOS “elves” who set up the train display, drawing a gratified round of applause from the audience.
During intermission, the 50/50 raffle drawing included prizes of a Christmas globe and Christmas candles. “All of us at the Redford wish you a safe and merry Christmas,” said Martin, a few minutes before the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come chased him off the stage.
The audience settled in for the second half of this big budget English musical, which last appeared at the Redford in December 1997 and which attempted to re-capture the spirit of the Oscar-winning 1968 musical Oliver! (last shown at the Redford in December 2001).
The energy and enthusiasm of the final musical numbers in Scrooge filled the Redford with a rich feeling of the holiday spirit. You felt that every Redford event of the year builds up to this night of warm mutual appreciation between audience and staff.
The Redford volunteers now take a well-deserved three-week break before starting all over again on January 5, 2007 with Lucille Ball in The Long, Long Trailer.
Miracle on Liberty Street
Patrons of the Michigan Theater’s 2006 Holiday Classic Film Series were treated to some outstanding child performances—Peter Billingsley in A Christmas Story, the Bailey children in It’s a Wonderful Life, and the miraculous poignancy of Peggy Ann Garner in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
On December 17, visitors enjoyed the serious innocence of a very young Natalie Wood in the 1947 version of Miracle on 34th Street. The crowd also laughed at the wonderful Oscar-winning performance of Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle.
This movie is being shown all month on AMC TV, but only the Michigan Theater could provide the laughter and chuckles that united the audience in their appreciation of the film. Particularly fun was the steady flow of different reactions to the plot twists in the courtroom scene at the end of the movie.
The warm vibes of the Michigan Theater community were present everywhere. Before the film, Annual Gifts/Membership Director Laura Barnes handed out keychains and bookmarks in the front lobby, before taking the Michigan stage to introduce the film. At the Membership Desk, you could buy a CD of holiday music on the Barton organ. Live organ music filled the main auditorium, as Henry Aldridge delighted the crowd with Christmas favorites.
After the film, the excited voices of young children animated the satisfied sounds of the crowd conversation. Outside the auditorium, families looked up in wonder at the Christmas tree, spectacular against the high, arched gold ceiling of the Grand Foyer.
Patrons filed out of the Michigan Theater into the darkness of a winter evening. Holiday decorations lit up the sidewalk trees. People scurried to restaurants, coffee shops and gift stores. For many, it truly was “Christmas time, in the city”.
Copyright 2006 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.