Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Plaza Theatre celebrates 70 years of cinema

Posted By on Tue, Jan 12, 2010 at 2:00 PM

click to enlarge PLAYBACK: The Plaza Theatre screens 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' in honor of its 70th anniversary.
  • PLAYBACK: The Plaza Theatre screens 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' in honor of its 70th anniversary.

With all due respect, the Plaza Theatre's 70th anniversary celebration brings to mind the idea that anything that gets old enough becomes respectable. Jonathan Rej, who co-owns the Poncey-Highland cinema with his wife, Gayle, points out that compared to the older, palatial Fox Theatre, "The Plaza was a neighborhood theater. Back then, there was no television, not everyone had cars and many people got their news from newsreels. Everyone went to the movies. It wasn't a big deal to have theaters a half mile from each other."

George Cukor's screwball comedy The Women tickled its first ticket-buyers as the Plaza's inaugural feature in 1939. If you're wondering why the Plaza celebrates its 70th birthday in 2010, Rej explains, "We really opened in December of 1939, but we thought it would be crazy to do the anniversary in the middle of the holidays. Also, we couldn't get prints of all the films we wanted. Among our first choices were some of the lesser-known classics from 1939, like Gunga Din, Dark Victory, Ninotchka and The Women. But prints weren't available for them, and I don't like to show films on DVD."

Instead, audiences for the Plaza's 1939 film festival will have to settle for three of the most iconic motion pictures of the Hollywood studio era, Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz and a rare 35 mm print of Jimmy Stewart's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Running Jan. 15-30, the festival includes Max Fleischer's Gulliver's Travels, the second feature-length animated film in screen history. Even the Silver Scream Spook Show harks back to 1939 with the Buck Rogers space opera Planet Outlaws on Jan. 30.

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(Photo Courtesy Columbia Pictures)

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