A Rare Experience
This retrospective festival celebrates an increasingly rare experience: the ability to see a classic film in a classic movie theatre. Why has this experience become so unusual? First, historic movie theatres are amongst the most endangered architecture in the United States. When The Campus Theatre was built in 1941, there were thousands of single screen theatres just like it. Today, only a dozen or so art deco movie theatres continue to operate in the U.S.
Second, we live in a media age where DVDs, TVs, cell phones, and Internet streaming have supplanted watching a film on film. While these modern conveniences make movies far more accessible, we forget that directors, cinematographers, and sound engineers still design films for the theatrical experience. Moreover, 35mm film and newer 4K digital projection produce an image almost four times greater in resolution, color depth, and detail than even the best HD televisions can display.
The Campus has survived, perhaps even thrived, for several reasons—great community support, a series of committed and passionate owners, geographic luck, and a long-standing relation with Bucknell University. Though it is easy to take The Campus for granted, this festival exists to remind us how fortunate we are to have such a special facility close at hand.
Selecting just 25 films from the last 70 years proved exceedingly challenging. In making selections, we used three rough criteria to narrow the list.
First, we privileged films that had been recently restored or preserved on 35mm film or for digital projection. Recent restorations include Taxi Driver, Forbidden Planet, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Breathless, and The Red Shoes. In short, we wanted to show films that would look almost as well or better than when they were originally screened.
Second, we selected films that we felt needed to be seen in a theatre to fully realize the film’s visual, sonic, and emotional impact. For us, Jacques Tati’s Play Time, Terrance Malick’s Days of Heaven or Ridley Scott’s Alien are essential theatrical experiences.
And finally, we included films we felt were world cinematic milestones: movies that changed the way other filmmakers approached cinema. These milestones included Abbas Kiarostami’s mix of fiction and documentary in Close-Up, John Woo’s redefintion of the action genre in The Killer, and Nina Paley’s Internet distributed sensation, Sita Sings The Blues. In different ways, these are films that changed the medium as we know it.
We hope you enjoy the wide selection of films and genres. We especially hope you enjoy the experience of seeing them as they were meant to be seen: on the big screen. Finally, we’d like to extend a huge thank you to Bucknell University President John Bravman and the staff at The Campus Theatre for all their support in producing this festival.
– Professors Eric Faden and Amanda Keeler, co-curators