Editorial: Old movies a new idea - Press-Republican: Opinion

Editorial: Old movies a new idea

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Posted: Friday, January 31, 2014 2:25 am

It’s exciting to see the use of classic movies at the Strand Theatre in downtown Plattsburgh, an innovation that fits perfectly with the building’s atmosphere and amenities.

The idea stems from the belief that, when it comes to viewing a great old movie, a TV screen is a far cry from a movie screen.

First, the Strand presented a showing last October of the classic silent film “Phantom of the Opera,” with Jonathan Ortloff performing on the theater’s restored Wurlitzer organ. That event drew an overflow crowd.

Then, earlier this month, the Strand filled seats again for a showing of the venerable 1925 silent film “Seven Chances,” starring the legendary silent-movie comedian Buster Keaton. Again, it was accompanied by the Wurlitzer organ, this time with Clark Wilson at the keyboard.

Before movies had sound, theaters provided live piano or organ music to enhance the action on the screen, and the Strand is fortunate to have that unique amenity when it shows classic movies.

News that the Strand was dipping into this mode of entertainment reinforced our long-held belief that there is a market for such fare. The theater is envisioned as a center for all kinds of performance events, and old movies could certainly augment those offerings.

Bringing back old movies for another go-round, either for a new generation of viewers or as a bonus for a generation that saw them years or even decades ago can be an extremely promising prospect.

The new owners of the landmark Madison Theatre on Madison Avenue in Albany are finding success in expanding on that idea.

That 85-year-old movie house has, over the years, been the scene of first-run films in a variety of settings — one screen, two screens, five screens. The plan now is to show four revival movies a week in two 130-seat theaters. A ticket will be $5.

This can make more sense, in a way, than showing first-run movies, which are more expensive to rent and require a set commitment at the theater, whether it is attracting crowds or not.

Old movies and very old movies will be shown at the Madison. A Paul Newman week opened the enterprise with “Slapshot,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Cool Hand Luke” and “The Sting.” The 1931 gangster classic “Scarface” is the oldest movie yet scheduled.

This area should watch the Madison’s offerings and follow carefully how it is doing. Not that the Capital District market can be compared with the North Country, or even necessarily used to forecast potential success up here. But, if the old movies draw crowds, it could encourage an expanded effort here.

Movie watching in a theater is a memorable experience. That’s something the Strand can capitalize on if it makes the right film choices.

 

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