ST. GEORGE — A nonprofit organization is inviting residents to have a seat at the Electric Theater Center for free movies every Tuesday.
After months of planning, the city of St. George and the Film and Media Alliance of Southern Utah are teaming up to inspire cinema critics and directors to discover new films, actively participate in conversations with their peers and enjoy food sold by local restaurants.
The Film and Media Alliance of Southern Utah has been striving to build a film culture in Southern Utah through workshops and charity events since June 2018. The organization approached film critic Beau Stucki, who is lead curator of the Facebook film discussion group This Movie Club, to organize and host repertory screenings of cinema in Southern Utah.
Stucki told St. George News he spoke with city officials not long after the proposal and they agreed to let the group use the Electric Theater Center to host the events. By hosting in-person events at an accessible location, Stucki said the club is hoping to inspire Southern Utah residents to discover new films while bringing cinema back to the theater.
“I feel it’s very important to have that communal experience of watching movies together in the way they were designed to be presented, on the big screen in the movie house,” he said.
Each Tuesday in 2020, the event will begin with a brief introduction of the film by a scholar, followed by the screening. After the film has ended, the audience will be invited downstairs, where businesses will have meals available for purchase so attendees can enjoy food from local vendors while they participate in a discussion about the film, including Riggatti’s Wood Fired Pizza, Affogato West and Obsidian Chocolates.
Each month has its own theme for the movies that are chosen. The theme for January is “movies about movies,” beginning with “Sunset Boulevard.” Movies in January will be movies that examine Hollywood and the film-making process. During another month in the year, event organizers will be screening movies shot in Washington County.
“Washington County used to be huge for movies, and it’s not as much anymore,” Stucki said. “Most films that have any portion filmed in Utah, that’s now in the northern half of the state.”
From the list of films that have been chosen so far, he said there is a large variety of origins and subjects. From classic Hollywood and foreign films to modern films, each of the roughly 52 films have been curated from several distributors and studios.
As one of the fastest growing communities in the nation, St. George has a wonderful musical theater presence but there has been a lack of opportunity for cinema outside of DOCUTAH, Stucki said. Events like these not only allow residents to meet like-minded people and share their passion in a public setting, but they also bring people together.
“I’m always quoting the critic Roger Ebert who said, ‘Movies are empathy machines,’ and I think that’s really important,” he said. “In this time, maybe specifically, I think we always need empathy.”
This Movie Club has a virtual component that has been in operation for six years. The Facebook group allows film aficionados from all over the world to come together, view movies and talk about their experiences.
Stucki said through his previous experience running a virtual movie club, he has found that allowing open and honest conversation about art brings out a number of perspectives and world views for people to examine alongside the cinema.
The free movie screenings will be every Tuesday, beginning on Jan. 7 at 6 p.m. at the Electric Theater Center on Tabernacle Street with the Gloria Swanson classic “Sunset Boulevard.”
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