As I walked across the parking lot of the Redford Theatre on the evening of Dec. 1, 2007, the falling snow peacefully muffled the sounds of the city. As I passed the stage end of the building, I heard the warm tones of Christmas music being played on the Redford’s Barton organ.
So began an evening of entertainment that kicked off the Redford’s Christmas season. It was completely in the spirit of the public fun that is the focus of the early Christmas season, before we think more about co-workers, friends and family.
Inside the theater, lively activity stretched from the front of the auditorium to the outer lobby. That lobby was filled with items for an auction that will help fund the restoration of the theater. Patrons bid on such treasures as a hockey stick autographed by several Detroit Red Wings, an old Sanders sign, baseball cards, movie books, and old newspapers.
In the auditorium, visitors got their first look at the model train set that has become a highlight of the Redford year. The lights of the train set and the nearby Christmas tree had a warm, focused glow. And the holiday feeling smoothly segued into the patriotic feeling of the group singing of the National Anthem.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
In spite of the snowy cold weather, a strong crowd showed up at the Redford. “We’d like to thank you for braving the weather to spend the evening at the Redford,” said David Martin of the Motor City Theatre Organ Society from the stage before the movie. “We have a warm evening planned tonight.”
The movie entertainment started with the 1941 M-G-M Tom and Jerry cartoon, The Night Before Christmas. That warmed the crowd up for the main attraction, the modern Christmas classic A Christmas Story (1983).
In the 25 years since A Christmas Story was released, it has become one of the most popular movies of the holiday season. Every year, the cable channel TBS airs it continuously for 24 hours on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
So most people probably know this movie as a collection of cleverly funny scenes that they dipped in to between the gift-giving and feasting of Christmas Day. Now here was a chance to see it from beginning to end, on a big screen, amidst the laughter of many other moviegoers, in a setting rich with the Christmas feeling.
Before the movie and during the intermission, organist John Lauter skillfully played a mixture of secular and sacred Christmas songs, with a little bit of The Nutcracker thrown in. Nearby, children of all ages marveled at the model train set, with its cozy image of small town America that was similar to many of the scenes in A Christmas Story.
At intermission, the tickets for the different prize drawings were drawn by a young boy who was bundled up like the little brother in A Christmas Story—complete with the arms stuck stiffly in a horizontal position. The prizes included a model of the infamous leg lamp from the movie.
David Martin also told the audience about the eight dollar gift certificates that were being sold by the theater, as well as the 30 dollar gift packet for nine movies in the January-April season.
The Redford Christmas season continues Saturday, Dec. 8 with its annual Christmas concert. And then on Dec. 14-15, the Redford shows another comfortably familiar holiday movie—It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). That last movie weekend of 2007 will also include an appearance by Santa Claus, who will pose for free photographs with visitors.
Copyright © 2007 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.