Pensacola, Florida
Monday September 1st 2014

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Classics Within a Classic

By Jennie McKeon

Summer movies are always a great way to beat the summer heat. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough flicks to sustain a whole season indoors and with ticket prices increasing, the movies will likely burn a whole through your wallet rather than keep you cool.

Starting July 14, Saenger Theatre will bring back the Classic Movies Series, offering the alternative to pricey blockbusters by showcasing classic movies featuring names such as: Humphrey Bogart, Orson Welles, Frank Sinatra and Audrey Hepburn.

“The Saenger is known among native Pensacolians for being ‘the place’ for seeing movies back in the day,” said Kathy Summerlin, marketing director for Saenger Theatre. “It’s time that several new generations are able to experience the Saenger and movies the way they were meant to be seen—on the big screen.”

The Classic Movie Series returns to bring more movie and musical lovers to Saenger during the lull in live shows.

“We wanted to keep the Saenger busy throughout the summer with events,” said Summerlin. “Summer is typically a very quiet time for the Saenger because concerts are touring amphitheaters and festivals, Broadway shows are in their off season as well, and the local arts groups are re-tooling for their next season.”

Not only will the movies help bring more traffic to Saenger, but they will bring more traffic to the entire downtown area.

“It’s an incentive to bring people downtown, have a meal at one of the great restaurants, take a stroll and see a great classic movie,” Summerlin said.

The movies will also be inexpensive. Single tickets are $5, or you can purchase the discounted Movie Ten-Pack, which admits you to see all 10 movies for $40.

“Our goal was to attract a very diverse audience with an affordable price,” Summerlin said.  “You can’t see a matinee anymore for less than $7.”

The selection of the 10 movies was a careful one using focus groups and social media.

“We started with a survey at the September Gallery Night where we showed ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,’” Summerlin said.  “There was so much positive feedback that we made plans to move forward for the summer series. “

The classics to be shown range from the well-known such as “The Wizard of Oz” to those that maybe only classic movie buffs will recognize.

“Seven of the 10 films that were selected have been selected by the National Film Registry to be preserved in the Library of Congress because they are culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films,” Summerlin said. “Our goal was to present mostly classic movie musicals, going back to a more light-hearted, slower paced time.”

The Library of Congress has been preserving up to 25 films a year to the National Film Registry since 1989. Some of the films in the Saenger Classic Movie Series have not yet been preserved by the National Film Registry.

“I’m surprised that ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and ‘My Fair Lady’ weren’t on the list,” Summerlin said. “‘On the Town’ was the other film not on the list.”
Summerlin also discovered a fun fact while researching the films for trivia that will roll before the movies’ 7 p.m. show times.

“One of the movies has a local angle,” Summerlin said.

Leif Erickson, who plays the role of Pete in “Showboat,” was a resident of Pensacola in the 1980s.

“He was married to Ann Diamond and they lived their later years in Pensacola where he died after a battle with cancer here in 1986,” Summerlin said. “His wife, Ann, sponsored a seat in the Saenger during the capital campaign in 2007 to raise money for the renovation. A plaque with his name is on a seat on Row E in the orchestra level. Cool stuff!”

And even though the summer is when popcorn selling blockbusters take precedence over Oscar nominated films, it doesn’t mean you can’t take in a little culture and expand your film horizons with classic films that lack the computer graphics and color of today.

“In the United States, movies are part of our common cultural inheritance,” said Tom Roush, film commissioner of the Pensacola area. “Classic movies have had at least as great an impact on our culture as classic novels. In fact, being ‘well seen’ is as important as being ‘well read’ in my view. Plus it’s a whole lot of fun.”

Saenger Classic Movie Series
7/14  On the Town
7/21  Maltese Falcon
7/28  42nd Street
8/4    Showboat
8/11   Citizen Kane
8/18    My Fair Lady
8/25    Fiddler on the Roof
9/1    Music Man
9/8   Casablanca
9/15   Wizard of Oz

SAENGER CLASSIC MOVIE SERIES
WHEN: Starts 7 p.m. Saturday, July 14
WHERE: 118 S. Palafox
COST: $5 or $40 for a ten ticket package
DETAILS: pensacolasaenger.com or 595-3880