While watching Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window the other night at the Penn Theatre in downtown Plymouth (May 17, 2007), I reflected on how I’d also seen that classic 1954 mystery at all three Detroit Movie Palaces.
In February 2000, the Detroit Film Theatre presented a restored version of Rear Window that was highlighted by a dramatic kiss between Grace Kelly and James Stewart. This movie came to the Redford Theatre in May 2001. And in September 2005, the Michigan Theater showed Rear Window as part of the Interior Vision Film Series of the University of Michigan Program in Film and Video Studies.
This Hitchcock thriller is one of several classic films that has been shown at all three theaters in the last 10 years or so. The Redford and Michigan have regular old movie series, while the DFT usually shows such films as restored prints or as part of special series.
These widely popular films have included Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Modern Times (1936), The General (1927), and The Producers (1968).
Another common movie at the three theaters is another Hitchcock favorite, North by Northwest (1959), which played at the DFT in February 1997; the Redford in September 2000 and August 2006; and the Michigan in June 2006 as part of its Summer Classic Film Series.
Alfred Hitchcock’s talent for appealing to both critics and crowds has kept his movies in demand at the Detroit Movie Palaces. At the DFT, a highlight of the National Film Registry Tour of the Library of Congress in April 1996 was a showing of Shadow of a Doubt (1943).
The Redford showed Dial M for Murder (1954) in August 2004. The Redford’s last two Halloween shows included, in 2005, Psycho (1960) and in 2006, The Birds (1963). The Michigan often shows Psycho on Labor Day weekend for returning University of Michigan students. In February 2006, the Michigan screened Vertigo (1958) as part of the UM’s History of Psychiatry Through Film.
So I sat back at the Penn and enjoyed the craftsmanship and cleverness of the Old Master. Rear Window is part of the Penn’s Thursday night series of older movies that has a different theme every month. May has brought several classic mysteries, including The Maltese Falcon (1941).
The series kicked off in February, with romantic movies like Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993). Laughter took center stage in March, with Some Like it Hot (1959) and The Odd Couple (1968). History buffs enjoyed the April lineup that included Julius Caesar (1953) and All the President’s Men (1976).
As I waited for Rear Window to start, I gazed around the auditorium at the friendly, low-key style of the Penn. It includes decorative light shades; red, frilled curtains; and walls that gently curve from the sides towards the screen.
The atmosphere reminded me a lot of the Michigan, with local residents greeting each other. The regular old movie schedule made me think of the Redford, which has publicized the Penn in a display case in the Redford’s inner lobby.
The Penn has all the virtues of the small neighborhood movie theaters that once filled the city of Detroit and suburbs. Plenty of close parking is available, and for local residents, it’s only a short drive (or even walk) home. The trip from the ticket booth to your seat is quick and efficient, and the concessions are reasonably priced (for example, a bag of popcorn and a 20-ounce soft drink cost $2).
The Penn has become a nice complement to the Detroit Movie Palaces, and its weekend series of recent popular films will help it attract a broad range of visitors. With the Kellogg Park fountain going full blast, and summer park activities right around the corner, now is the perfect time to visit the Penn.
Copyright 2007 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.