Cinema and culture are like mirrors facing each other, where it is impossible to tell which one reflects which, but there is an endless dialogue of feelings and ideas. In celebration of our 100th birthday each month the Nugget will play a film that captured the great struggles and joys, anxieties and pleasures of each decade, and continues to influence filmmakers today. The poetry of Broken Blossoms, the genre-blended witty war-romance of Casablanca, Benjamin’s aimlessness in The Graduate, Indy’s pull to adventure and the mysteries of the past—with these nine films we celebrate 100 years of great cinema at the Nugget and toast the continued growth of our movie-loving community. Also remember to vote in our poll for New Millennium Film that closes this wonderful series in October!
BROKEN BLOSSOMS Showing: Sunday, January 24th at 1:30pm
The massive rise in immigration from 1892-1912 gave rise to densely packed urban areas and many new anxieties, but D. W. Griffith’s poetic, intricate melodrama “helped nudge a xenophobic nation toward racial tolerance” (Roger Ebert). This silent film tells the story of a fragile romance in London’s foggy slums between a gentle, opium-addicted Chinese man and a Cockney waif (Lillian Gish). But the purest dreams of the couple, both ‘broken blossoms’, are destroyed by the sordid reality of racism. D: D. W. Griffith, USA, 1919, 90m
SAFETY LAST! Showing: Sunday, February 28th at 1:30pm
Of all the great funny men of the 1920s, the bespectacled Harold Lloyd was the most distinctly American. The comic’s best-loved film finds him as an earnest young chap who goes to the city to make his fortune, although $15 a week from a department store is the best he can muster. The hair-raising finale, in which Lloyd tries to win a prize by ascending a building’s wall for publicity, is one of the most memorable moments in silent cinema. Live Piano Accompaniment by Bob Merrill. D: Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor, USA, 1923, 70m
THE WIZARD OF OZ Showing: Sunday, March 27th at 1:30pm
“There’s an audience for Oz wherever there’s a projection machine and a screen,” (Variety). Swept away from her farm in Kansas, Dorothy (Judy Garland) finds herself in a magnificent wonderland of munchkins, flying monkeys and magical ruby slippers. To return home, she must find the Wizard of Oz…if the Wicked Witch doesn’t get her first! Join the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and more in this beloved musical classic which took audiences “over the rainbow” in glorious Technicolor. D: Victor Fleming, US, 1939, 102m
CASABLANCA Showing: Sunday, April 24th at 1:30pm
A brooding Humphrey Bogart runs a gin joint in Nazi-occupied French Morocco. His past, politics and heart come screaming back to life when old flame Ingrid Bergman walks in his door. From “Round up the usual suspects” to “We’ll always have Paris,” this Best Picture winner truly lives up to all its hype. An undisputed masterpiece and perhaps Hollywood’s quintessential statement on love, Casablanca fully captures the sense that “the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans” when war tears apart the world—a feeling that still resonates today. D: Michael Curtiz, US, 1942, 102m
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN Showing: Sunday, May 22nd at 1:30pm
Now digitally re-mastered, this beloved musical should only ever be seen on the big screen. It’s not just a song-and-dance piece starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and a sprightly Debbie Reynolds; it’s also an affectionately funny insider spoof about the film industry’s uneasy transition from silent pictures to “talkies.” Among the musical highlights: the knockout “Make ‘Em Laugh”; the big “Broadway Melody” number; and Kelly’s stunning bit of magic on a drenched set. D: Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, US, 1952, 103m
THE GRADUATE Showing: Sunday, June 26th at 1:30pm
“One word: plastics.” Few films have defined a generation as The Graduate did. The alienation, the nonconformity, the intergenerational romance, the blissful Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack—they all served to lob a cultural grenade smack into the middle of 1967 America. Hoffman’s late-blooming Benjamin and Anne Bancroft’s deliciously decadent, sardonic Mrs. Robinson lend themselves perfectly to Dartmouth ’52 Buck Henry’s offbeat and dryly funny script. D: Mike Nichols, USA, 1967, 106m
AMERICAN GRAFFITI Showing: Sunday, July 24th at 1:30pm
Where were you in ’62? George Lucas’s seminal American Graffiti captures the look, sound and feel of the summer of 1962 by chronicling the lives of a group of young people on their last night together before they leave for college. The film that launched a thousand careers, including those of Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford, American Graffiti “is not only a great movie but a brilliant work of historical fiction. No sociological treatise could duplicate the movie’s success in remembering exactly how it was to be alive at that cultural instant” (Roger Ebert). D: George Lucas, US, 1973, 110m
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK Showing: Sunday, August 28th at 1:30pm
“To get to the point immediately, Raiders is one of the most deliriously funny, ingenious and stylish American adventure movies ever made” (New York Times). The celebrated collaboration between Star Wars’ George Lucas and wunderkind Steven Spielberg resulted in one of the biggest blockbusters of the early 1980s. Lawrence Kasdan’s sly, action-packed script breathlessly careens from steamy South American jungle to snowy Nepalese mountaintop to dusty Egyptian desert—with Harrison Ford’s intrepid and wily adventurer/archaeologist Indiana Jones battling ruthless Nazis to be the first to discover an ancient and possibly magical relic. D: Steven Spielberg, US, 1981, 115m
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION Showing: Sunday, September 25th at 1:30pm
A modern classic that few people have seen on the big screen, Shawshank is the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and Red (Morgan Freeman), two lifers at a gothic New England prison. The ugly realities of prison life are quickly introduced to Andy: a corrupt warden (Bob Gunton), sadistic guards and inmates who are little better than animals—but Andy stubbornly insists on his innocence. Based on a novella by Stephen King, this iconic cinematic experience transcends the medium and offers “a throwback to the kind of serious, literate drama Hollywood used to make” (Time Out). D: Frank Darabont, USA, 1994, 142m
NEW MILLENNIUM POLL WINNER Showing: Sunday, October 23rd at 1:30pm
Over the last 6 years The Nugget has screened 422 films of which 129 received a total of 414 Oscar Nominations winning 98 Oscars.
By Alex Hanson
Valley News Staff Writer
Barring anything unforeseen, this afternoon the first patrons will sit down in the Nugget Theaters’ biggest theater and enjoy the first digital 3-D screening in the Upper Valley.
The Nugget had a new digital projector installed this week, in time for the release of Toy Story 3. The film will be projected onto a new silver screen, a replacement for the white screen and a requirement for 3-D projection.
“I think the quality of what they’re going to see is a definite improvement,” said M. Kaufman, manager of the Nugget.
The Nugget’s new projector is just the first of a wave of upgrades aimed at Upper Valley eyeballs. Last week, Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center installed a new digital projector for Spaulding Auditorium that will be powerful enough to produce a proper image in the cavernous 880-seat hall. The Hop also is putting digital surround sound into Spaulding, said Sydney Stowe, manager of the Hop’s film program.
“The world is going digital and we would like to be able to present video at the same level as we present 35 millimeter,” Stowe said.
Within the next month or two, Entertainment Cinemas in Lebanon plans to install its first digital 3-D projector in the largest of its six theaters, said Bill Hanney, owner and president of the Boston-based theater chain. Hanney’s company also plans to add new theaters at the complex in Lebanon — part of a planned expansion to 10 screens — that will have digital 3-D capabilities.
A message left at the Boston-based food service company that owns Claremont Five-Star Cinema was not returned. Officials with Woodstock’s Town Hall Theatre could not be reached yesterday.
The switch to digital follows an industry imperative. Hollywood studios prefer digital projection because it lowers shipping and storage costs — 35 mm films are shipped in big cumbersome boxes, while the digital films arrive in small plastic cases. Films distributed digitally also are harder to pirate. What’s more, a digital film remains sharp throughout its run in a theater. “Every time you run a 35 mm print through a projector, it’s going to wear,” Kaufman said.
The Nugget, which is owned by the nonprofit Hanover Improvement Society, has been considering the purchase of a digital 3-D system for two or three years, Kaufman said. This year, the price finally came down enough, although Kaufman declined to reveal how much the Improvement Society spent.
The price came down because “Avatar just exploded,” Kaufman said. People flocked to the theaters to see James Cameron’s 3-D feature and more theaters purchased digital projectors. Prices dropped as companies chased the new business, which led to even greater demand. Bringing the new projector and screen online is just the first of a host of upgrades the Nugget plans to roll out this summer. The theater is updating its box office and concession stand to take credit cards, and once that’s up and running will begin to sell tickets through its Web site.
However moviegoers buy their tickets, they will pay more. Ticket prices rise today to $9 for adults and $7 for seniors, children and matinees. For 3-D films, the prices will be even higher: $12.50 for adults and $10.50 for seniors, children and matinees. The movie studios demand more money back from each ticket sold to cover the cost of converting the film to 3-D, which drives ticket prices up.
The Nugget will likely put digital 3-D in another of its theaters within the next two years, Kaufman said, a move that would allow it to open a second 3-D film while an earlier release remains in the theater.
Hollywood is touting 3-D as the future of movies, and the number of releases in 3-D is climbing steadily. Warner Bros., alone is releasing five films in 3-D this year and eight next year, Stowe said.
Although the new projector at Spaulding doesn’t have 3-D now, it will enable it in the future, Stowe said. The technical challenge the new projector meets is the size of the “throw” — 98 feet from the projector to the screen — and of the 27-foot-wide screen. For the past four years, the Hop has used a 6,000-lumen projector for digital media. Last year, documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman said. “Huh, this looks a little dim,” Stowe said.
“We do so few video shows,” said Stowe. The Hop screens nearly all of its films from 35 mm prints. “We’ve been able to sort of skate by for a while.”
But sometimes the Hop can’t get a 35 mm print of a film in one of its programs, and Dartmouth’s frequent tributes to screen legends include film clips assembled on DVD. Another impetus for the new 10,000-lumen digital projector came from the Hop’s screenings of the Metropolitan Opera. Saturday live broadcasts will remain in Loew Auditorium, which already has sharp digital projection and digital sound, but Sunday-afternoon encore performances will screen in Spaulding, Stowe said.
Although Hop employees were training on the new projector this week, it won’t debut until next month, when Ken Burns brings Baseball: The Tenth Inning, an addendum to his acclaimed documentary series about the national pastime, to Spaulding on July 16 and 17. After that, it will be used for the 12 opera programs and a handful of other programs.
The new projector raises questions for the Hop’s film programmers, Stowe said. The summer Dartmouth Film Series is titled “Leading Ladies,” and features films with women in central roles. There’s no public 35 mm print of the 1990 French noir La Femme Nikita, Stowe said. “Do we play it on Blu-ray,” currently the highest resolution available, she asked.
“It will look unbelievable, but people could see it in their homes,” or should the Hop scour the landscape for a private 35 mm print? Some smaller films are being released only on DVD.
In some ways, digital projection is also being driven by moviegoers, many of whom have high-definition televisions and high-definition video like Blu-ray at home, Stowe said.
“Most people who go to the movies now, they have hi-def on their TVs,” she said.
The giant screen in Spaulding might bring people out for special programs, Stowe said. Ohio State University’s Wexner Center for the Arts held a free digital screening of the final episode of Lost, and Stowe said she would love to see the Hop screen the Oscars.
As excited as they are about the new technology, both Stowe and Kaufman expressed a bit of unease.
“My initial reaction as a theater manager, my worry is, you’re dealing with more of a projector that’s a computer than you’re dealing with a film that you can have in your hand,” said Kaufman, who’s been at the Nugget for 13 years, the past three as manager. He knows how to remove damaged frames from a 35 mm film and splice it back together, but the new black box with its screen, keyboard and mouse is a bit mysterious.
“It’s a new medium and it’s so uncomfortable for me,” Stowe said. “If it goes down, how do you fix it?”
The Hop plans to continue to screen almost all of its films from 35 mm prints, and “most people feel that films will be made on 35 for another decade,” Stowe said. After that, who knows?
The beauty of the new technology will, as always, be in the eyes of those who behold it. Stowe said she got a preview of the new projector with a screening of Dirty Harry, of all things.
“You can see the herringbone weave on his blazer,” she said.
Alex Hanson can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3219.