A kick from The Goonies
AT A TIME when hundreds of thousands of films are available to stream and download, legally or illegally, it’s odd to think that people would pay to see something they could grab on a DVD or download from iTunes for a few euro.
But the Screen cinema off D’Olier Street in Dublin has built a dedicated audience for old and not-so-old films that have long left the movie theatre.
It’s something plenty of cinemas do internationally. The Screen takes inspiration from places such as the British Film Institute in London and the Alamo Drafthouses in the US – the Austin, Texas branch has screened The Gooniesin a cave and Jawson a lake.
But in Ireland, retrospective screenings are sporadic and sometimes unlicensed. There is a dearth of looking to the past for inspiration when it comes to theatre programming.
Various transient film screenings have popped up around the capital, including the Hollywood Babylon series in Smithfield, the Jameson Cult Film Club, which goes to some expense recreating the drama of cult films, the outdoor screenings under a canopy at Meeting House Square, and screenings at the Dundrum Town Centre. But in traditional cinemas, screenings seem to concentrate on what’s new, rather than revisiting old favourites, even though the digital capabilities for cinemas should allow such programming.
Three years ago, the Screen started a classic screenings series with Casablancaand hasn’t looked back. This week it is screening Die Hard 2, Jingle All the Wayand Scrooged, and has hosted Monday night sci-fi events, along with the slightly more serious programme, Metropolitan Opera Live in HD.
Revisiting favourite films that you may not have had the chance to see on the big screen is a winner for audiences. So, apart from the Irish Film Institute, which holds lunchtime screenings of archive films and others that have left cinemas a long time ago, why don’t more venues indulge in retrospectives?
“There isn’t a treasure chest of old films readily available for screening,” says Anna Taylor, programme manager of the Screen cinema. “A lot of 35mm films that are left aren’t in the best condition and can be incredibly expensive to ship. Many great films are yet to be digitised.
“There’s also the risk that no one will go to see it,” Taylor says. “When a contemporary film goes on general release it gets press coverage and there is a team of people working on media campaigns to support it. Even then, audiences may not go and see it. When you are playing a classic film, all you have is the film – it’s up to your own enthusiasm to get it out there.”
It can be hard to know what audiences want, but people attending made so many suggestions the Screen decided to launch the junior programme season, in which an audience member programmes their favourite film. The junior programme with the greatest attendance at a screening gets a year’s free Screen membership.
Taylor’s favourite film to screen is Gone with the Wind, but the best reactions so far are to Arnold Schwarzenegger films and The Goonies. “Films, like great books, don’t grow old. Great art is timeless,” Taylor says. “For me, the draw is in seeing your favourite film stars blown up like they were meant to be seen and heard – and, even better, in surround sound. But I feel the greatest part is the collective energy that comes from the audience, everybody adding to each other’s experience.”
The IFI regularly screens films from its archive and is also currently screening Amélie. Its IFI: Family series is screening Home Aloneon New Year’s Eve.
Film Fatale at the Sugar Club in Leeson Street in Dublin is screening Singin’ in the Rainthis Saturday.
The Model, Sligo
The Model screens various films on occasion (currently it is screening Tomboy) and recently presented its first music documentary festival.