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Podcast: Pleasant Street Theater’s midnight screening series a hit

Last fall, Northampton’s Pleasant Street Theater kicked off its Friday “Midnight” series for film fanatics.

Each Friday’s screening offers a new film selection; selections range from blockbusters to independent features, from old classics to recent favorites. The viewing experience associated with a screening for this series is quite unlike a standard trip to the theater, as the audience is more participative and socially active than in a conventional cinema setting.

George Myers, general manager of both the Pleasant Street Theater and Amherst Cinema, is responsible for the series’ conception. Before each screening, Myers personally provides a brief introduction to the film, always including a reminder of the important role charitable donations play in helping to keep local theaters operating. Both of these establishments are non-profit, and therefore, they both rely on members for support. Myers sees creatively organized screenings such as these as a way to promote the theater’s presence in the community.

Myers is heavily involved in the process of selecting films for the series. Though he is not the only person with opinions about which movies get the go ahead, he is the ultimate decision-maker regarding the series’ selections. The theater receives Internet feedback about the series, often from people who want to see one movie or another – or are upset about the inclusion of a particular film in the series. Suggestions have validity for this type of series, but not necessarily when they push for heavy dramas such as “The Godfather.” Despite being a popular masterpiece, Myers realizes that it’s not necessarily right for this type of screening, which tends to call for more light-hearted fare.

“At midnight,” he said, “people are usually kind of a little more in a party vibe, so they want to laugh – they want to see people’s heads get cut off.”

So far, the series has screened trashy horror favorites like “Troll Hunter,” “Street Trash” and “I Drink Your Blood,” which are the perfect fare for a fun midnight projection (in that they prominently feature decapitation). Myers has tried to strike a balance between these kind of midnight movie material flicks and more recent, even family-friendly films like “Mean Girls.”

Last Friday, the theater screened “The Big Lebowski.” The film, directed by the Coen brothers, is a beloved cult classic. The Dude (Jeff Bridges), the film’s main character, has become an almost-religious figure, inspiring some people to dogmatically emulate his laid-back way of life. The screening drew a large crowd, each member among them quoting their favorite lines. Surprisingly, only one person showed up in costume, but the audience was enthusiastic nonetheless.

One of the most popular movies in the series thus far has been “The Room.” Released in 2003 and directed by the fascinating Tommy Wiseau, “The Room” has become the ultimate in bad filmmaking. Myers describes the showing of “The Room” as a “highlight,” with both of its screenings selling out. For both nights, the theater was filled with people yelling out their favorite lines or pointing out the movie’s many flaws and inconsistencies.

In Myers’ words, it was “audience participation at its highest … or lowest depending on how you look at it.”

The audience is an integral part of the success of the series. And it isn’t just Amherst and Northampton residents who attend, but also people from Vermont and New Hampshire as well.

Because the series is one night a week, Myers is careful to choose films “that [he would want] to see or experience or think people will really like.”

It’s clear from talking with Myers that the experience of watching a film is of utmost importance to him. For Myers, the point of a movie theater is that everyone in the room is sharing in something.

“It’s not about seeing a movie, it’s about experiencing the movie,” said Myers.

The “Midnight” series is not the only one offered by the two theaters. Last year, Amherst Cinema showcased a three-part “Science on Screen” event, sponsored by A2Z Science and Learning Store of Northampton. The night combined the screening of a film with a lecture on the scientific subject matter covered in the plot.

“Art on Screen” is another series currently running at Amherst Cinema. This set of films offers biographical stories examining certain artists. These are just a few of the inventive showcases offered by Myers and both theaters.

But more than either of those series, the “Midnight” movie series has the potential to appeal to all sorts of movie fans. With such a diverse range of films, everyone can find something to take from the experience. For anyone looking for an action-packed Friday night be sure to check Pleasant Street Theater’s “Midnight” movie series.

Tickets are still available – though going fast – for this Friday’s highly anticipated screening of “Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie,” for sale at the Pleasant Street Theater box office and online at http://amherstcinema.org/films-and-events/midnight.

Danny Marchant can be reached at dmmarcha@student.umass.edu. Kevin Romani can be reached at kromani@student.umass.edu.

Podcast: Midnight screening

 

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