Preserving a Community

When I walked out of the Redford Theatre on the afternoon of Saturday, February 29, 2020, my senses were energized from a big screen, Technicolor presentation of the 1945 melodrama Leave Her to Heaven. That turned out to be my last indoor movie theater visit of the year.

In this COVID-19 pandemic year of 2020, the Detroit Film Theatre, Michigan Theater, and Redford Theatre tried in many ways to stay connected with the community of movie lovers who have supported them for years with personal visits to the theaters.

For many months, those personal visits were not possible, so the theaters were forced to innovate to keep their communities alive, with new services that might continue when the pandemic ends.

All three theaters made heavy use of the online world, where people connect in unique ways, all at a physical distance.

Both the DFT and Michigan took advantage of the streaming technology that has increased in popularity in recent years. By doing this, they continued their important roles as curators of alternative film for movie lovers in Southeast Michigan.

The Redford launched a series of weekly video watch parties on Facebook that allowed patrons to discuss the movie as it played, and also make donations to the theater.  The series included many lesser known titles that would probably not be popular enough for theater screenings.

Other innovations took advantage of the areas just outside the theaters. The Michigan had sidewalk sales of concession food, and the Redford screened outdoor movies in its parking lot.

At year’s end, theaters were allowed to open, but the ban on concession sales made it difficult financially to show movies.

When I think back on 2020, my memories will include a cool late September evening at the USA Hockey Arena drive-in theater near my home in Plymouth. This parking lot theater showed movies all summer, including many older classic movies that filled in for the lack of new product from Hollywood.

Showing that night was the delightful 1971 musical comedy Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. As I enjoyed the depth and variety of this amazing movie, my senses also took in the peaceful night air and the solitude of the nearly empty parking lot.

It was a very relaxing moment in a very stressful year.

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Detroit Movie Hosts

When famous Detroit television movie host Bill Kennedy went to Hollywood in the early 1940s, he set in motion a chain of events that led to a very heartwarming and entertaining day at the Redford Theatre on Saturday, November 3, 2018.

On that day, the Redford presented a tribute to Kennedy, whose modest career in Hollywood led to a more successful second career as a popular movie show host on Detroit area television stations from 1956 to 1983.

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Holiday Cartoons

In the 20 years that I’ve regularly attended the Redford Theatre, Thanksgiving weekend has usually meant no movie as Redford volunteers busily set up the Christmas decorations that help attract many people to the theater at the end of each year.

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That’s Italian

Students of Italian film history have had much to enjoy at the Detroit Film Theatre this year.

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Mining History

Every time we watch a movie, our understanding and enjoyment of it are affected by our knowledge of film history. Two movies at the Detroit Film Theatre on September 10, 2017 educated me more about the histories of feature film animation and Italian movies.

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The Hitchcock Touch

Alfred Hitchcock’s last big critical and popular success was The Birds. This 1963 apocalyptic chiller was shown at the Michigan Theater on Sunday, August 6, 2017 as part of its Hitchcock Goes Hollywood series.

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Movies at the Senate

A restored neighborhood movie theater on the southwest side of Detroit is increasing the number of classic movies that you can see on the big screen in the Detroit area.

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A Festival of Festivals

The six-year-old Cinetopia Film Festival has always been promoted as a gathering place for movies from film festivals around the world.

This mission has given film lovers in southeastern Michigan access to cinematic wonders from the Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, Venice, and other film festivals. Cinetopia has grown to the point where it can include smaller film festivals that could easily stand on their own, including the Arab American Film Festival.

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Silent Film Community

One of the great rewards of supporting historic theaters with classic film programs is the chance to see silent movies with live accompaniment. These performances are the product of a vibrant silent film community that has also helped to preserve silent movies through DVD recordings and restoration projects.

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Memories of War

A powerful new movie about World War I that I saw at the Michigan Theater on Sunday, May 28, 2017 added to my understanding of Memorial Day.

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