Oct 272010

A movie classics road trip

By Lucy Jones

Some people cope with the end of summer better than others. Me, I’ve never had a problem with it. I burn easily, I don’t bar-b-q, and I seem to attract mosquitoes at a disproportionate rate to all of my friends. In short–summer doesn’t hold much lure for me. That is…until this summer.

As my first official summer as a born again Lexingtonian, the Kentucky Theater Summer Classics Series became my weekly dose of instant euphoria. There wasn’t a moment in my week that could rival the thrill of laying down my four dollars (seriously…only 4 dollars!) in anticipation of organ music, a hearty “My Old Kentucky Home” sing-a-long, the wit and wisdom of Bill Widener, an often incongruously kitschy opening serial (a campy 1930s installment of “Flash Gordon” before the existential noir classic “In a Lonely Place”? Sure–I’ll take it!), and the much anticipated main event. When the Summer Classics Series ended, so did my cinematic life. Or so I thought.

But, as somebody or other’s granny used to say, when God closes a door he opens a window. Or maybe it’s: when God closes “Stage Door” he opens “Rear Window.” Something like that. The point is—I started searching around for other classic cinematic options. Sure, I could go the rental route. But there’s nothing quite like experiencing a film the way it was meant to be seen—with the smell of popcorn in the air and a room full of strangers. And strangers rarely take me up on my offers to bring them home and feed them popcorn. So I got online and discovered (joy of all joys!) that there are a number of gorgeously restored old school palace theaters in Kentucky that show movies all year.

And what’s more fun than a road trip? A movie road trip! So here is my prescription for anyone experiencing Kentucky Theater Summer Classics Series withdrawal:

Leeds Center for the Arts

Winchester, KY

Distance from Lexington: 22 miles

The structure that houses the Leeds Center for the Arts started as a movie theater in the 1920s but, since the 1990s, it has been a performance and resource center for the Winchester community. Luckily for us, they still show classic films every third Sunday of the month as part of their “Movies on Main” series. Upcoming films include:

November 21: Cape Fear (the original starring Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck)

December 19: Going My Way

For times and future dates, please visit: http://www.leedscenter.com

The Historic State Theater

Elizabethtown, KY

Distance from Lexington: 84 miles

The State Theater was built in 1942 and stands as a stunning example of Art Deco architecture. The first film shown at The State Theater was The Fleet’s In, starring William Holden and Dorothy Lamour. The theater has since been restored as a community center that hosts concerts, plays, and lectures; but it continues to show classic films. Upcoming features include:

November 12 and 13: Holiday Inn

November 19 and 20: White Christmas

December 3 and 4: Christmas in Connecticut

December 17 and 18: A Christmas Story

January 14 and 15: Jailhouse Rock

January 28 and 29: Viva Las Vegas

For times and future dates, please visit: http://www.historicstatetheater.org

Paramount Arts Center

Ashland, KY

Distance from Lexington: 118 miles

This theater poses the greatest challenge in terms of distance, but it offers a spectacular historical and architectural reward for your efforts. The Paramount Theater opened its doors on September 5, 1931. Originally, it was designed to show silent films for Paramount Studios. But, even as the structure was being built, the talkie arrived. On either side of the stage, you can still see the organ grills that were erected but never utilized.

Instead, the theater became one of the first silent-to-sound transitional theaters and was meant to serve as a model for other Paramount Studio theaters across the country. The Paramount Theater is now the Paramount Arts Center (it has served as a non-profit community center since 1972) but it has been restored with loving effort to its original 1930s Art Deco detail and still shows classic films. You can get your dose of monthly nostalgia via the “Second Sundays” series. Upcoming films include:

November 7: Out of Africa

December 12: White Christmas

January 9: The Bridge on the River Kwai

February 13: An Affair to Remember

March 13: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

April 10: The Ten Commandments

For times and future dates, please visit: http://www.paramountartscenter.com

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