Look Out! Bond Night at the Pickwick!

Dear Matthew,

Please just say to the audience that not only I enjoyed immensely making the film but even until today, I am reminded continuously by my fans how much they loved my performance and therefore fifty years later I am still reaping the benefit of being a Bond Girl.

Bless them all for me!

Thank you and good luck!

Warmest regards.

Luciana Paluzzi

The line to get in! (photo courtesy of Kenny Chmielewski)
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Over 500 patrons attended our 50th anniversary screening of Thunderball on April 21, 2016. The screening was a popular event for the community with many people in the lobby trying to get either a glimpse of the Vulcan Bomber model or meet New York Times best-selling author Raymond Benson. We also had a large amount of memorabilia from the film on display, courtesy of guest Colin Clark of the Ian Fleming Foundation.

We gave away some Bond prizes courtesy of the Ian Fleming Foundation. The grand prize was the tour of the IFF James Bond vehicle and prop facility in Kankakee, IL. There were multiple winners for this rare opportunity! The last prize was our giant “Bond Basket,” which we were raffling off.

Organist Jay Warren performed the pre-show music. His James Bond themes on the Mighty Wurlitzer sounded magnificent!

We had so much going on around the movie, but the real surprise of the night was the quality of the film itself. The color and detail of this particular DCP presentation was extraordinary– so much so that our long-time projectionist commented that it was one of the best restorations he had seen. The film looked absolutely gorgeous on the big screen.

Thank you again to everyone who came out to support the Pickwick Theatre Classic Film Series!

We dedicated this screening to IFF Chairman Peter Janson-Smith and Guy Hamilton, the director of Goldfinger. Both of whom had recently passed away.

Shannon & Elizabeth with the Vulcan Bomber!
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(photo courtesy of Kenny Chmielewski)
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James Bond Author/Film Historian Raymond Benson
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Raymond signing copies of his novels! (photo courtesy of Kenny Chmielewski)
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Colin Clark of the Ian Fleming Foundation
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Matthew, Colin & Raymond
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Giving stuff away! (photo courtesy of Kenny Chmielewski)
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Shannon with Colin’s homemade speargun!
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Our “Bond Basket” winner, Sue!
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The Biggest Bond of All!

Thunderball screens this Thursday, April 21, at 7 PM at the Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge. Doors open at 6 PM.

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When two atomic bombs are stolen and held for ransom by the organization SPECTRE, Agent 007 is called into service. His search takes him to the Bahamas where he encounters SPECTRE’s Number Two, Emilio Largo. It’s a race against time when a U.S. city is threatened with atomic terrorism. The chase leads to a spectacular underwater confrontation between James Bond and the frogmen of SPECTRE.

James Bond mania reached its zenith with the release of 1965’s Thunderball, the fourth film in the franchise. The Bond craze was everywhere by the mid-sixties, from merchandising to knock-off movie imitations. Though the series has continued to the present-day, never again would a Bond film generate as much excitement. What makes the film so well remembered fifty years after its release is that it lives up to the hype.

In anticipation of our anniversary screening at the Pickwick Theatre, we’ve met many fans who have cited Thunderball as their favorite Bond movie. This is high praise considering it followed From Russia With Love and Goldfinger! Reasons why are varied. “It has the most beautiful Bond girls,” is one of the more frequent responses. Regardless of its critical ranking in the 007 pantheon, Thunderball remains the most successful film of the franchise.

The definitive Bond, Sean Connery.
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James Bond author/historian Raymond Benson will be a guest on April 21 to discuss the film’s complicated genesis. The original story was based on an abandoned screenplay written by 007 creator Ian Fleming, along with Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham. Their intent was to make Thunderball the first James Bond movie. When this plan fell through, Fleming turned the screenplay into another Bond novel in 1961. McClory immediately sued, claiming he owned the rights to the story with Fleming. The case was eventually settled out of court. In the wake of this legal issue and the incredible success of the early Bond films, Eon producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman made a deal with McClory in 1964. They would allow him a producing credit on Thunderball. This was done in order to avoid McClory making a competing Bond film, as would be the case twenty years later with Never Say Never Again (1983).

Luciana Paluzzi as villainess Fiona Volpe. She originally tested for the role of Domino (played by Claudine Auger). On Thursday night, Luciana will be sending us a special message for the Pickwick audience!
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Thunderball was directed by Terence Young, a stylish British filmmaker who had already directed the first two Bond films. He was adept at mixing elegance with adventure, giving Thunderball a high gloss. The film benefits from beautiful locations in the Bahamas, spectacular underwater footage choreographed by Ricou Browning, and memorable set designs by production designer Ken Adam. Adam, who recently passed away at the age of 95, was one of the men most responsible for the look of the James Bond movies. His sets were never bland or static, but rather sophisticated and kinetic. Something was always moving in the frame, whether it was a giant map in Goldfinger or a Spectre agent’s electrified chair in Thunderball.

The famous Bell Rocket jet pack.
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In addition, Thunderball features one of the best John Barry musical scores, a witty script by Richard Maibaum that balances the danger with the sex, and lush cinematography by Ted Moore (shot in the Widescreen Panavision format), which captures the romance of the West Indies. The film would win an Oscar for special effects by John Stears. With so many talents involved, Thunderball stands as a testament to the collaborative art of epic filmmaking.

Contact sheet with scenes from the movie.
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Thunderball: 50th anniversary at the Pickwick Theatre

WHAT: Thunderball (1965) 50th anniversary screening (on DCP)
WHEN: April 21, 2016   7:00 PM
WHERE: Pickwick Theatre, Park Ridge, IL
WHO: Special guests: James Bond author Raymond Benson & Colin Clark of the Ian Fleming Foundation
WHAT ELSE: The “Vulcan Bomber” model plane used in the film will be on display in our lobby.
Also, the first hundred patrons (with an admission ticket) will get a chance to win a tour of the IFF James Bond vehicle & prop facility in Kankakee, IL.
We will have a free prize drawing as well as a raffle for a “Bond basket” ($1/ticket, 5 for $4).
Jay Warren performs pre-show music at 6:30 PM.
ADMISSION: $10/$7 seniors 60+ ($8/$6 advance)

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The historic Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge, IL, will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of THUNDERBALL with a screening of the classic James Bond blockbuster film on Thursday, April 21, 2016 at 7:00pm.

Program Host Matthew C. Hoffman of the Classic Film Series welcomes as special guests, representative of the Ian Fleming Foundation Colin Clark, and 007 continuing novelist and film historian Raymond Benson, who will introduce the movie and sign books.

IFF board member Colin Clark will have on display from the Foundation the five foot model of the RAF Vulcan Bomber used in the filming of the picture, restored to its original condition.

The evening’s festivities will include discussion of Thunderball‘s history and behind-the-scenes stories, several Bond-related raffles, and photo ops with Bond movie props and theater standees.

Pickwick’s Classic Film Series presentations often draw fans in costume. Attendees are invited to dress as their favorite Bond, Bond Girl, or Bond Villain.

On Wednesday, April 20, 2:00 a.m. CST, Hoffman and Clark will appear on Chicago’s WGN AM720 morning radio show with host Nick Digilio to talk about the Pickwick’s special Thunderball celebration and all things Bond.

Counting on Comedy Teams by Leonard Maltin

The following is film historian Leonard Maltin’s “Legends of Laughter 2” introduction written specifically for Park Ridge Classic Film. LOL2 runs from March 3-May 26 only at the Park Ridge Public Library.

There is no guarantee that two or three comedians will provide double or triple the laughter of a single performer…yet comedy duos and trios were a staple of both vaudeville and movies. What’s more, the most successful teams bore no resemblance to each other.

Laurel and Hardy were overgrown children. Abbott and Costello were made up of a wiseguy and a schnook. The Three Stooges were as different from the Marx Brothers as oil and seltzer water.

In each instance, these entertainers found something that clicked when they worked together: a rhythm, a comic contrast, a balance or harmony. The stars aligned and magic was in the air. (Few of them had solid solo careers, although there were notable exceptions.)

I was lucky enough to grow up at a time when these films were ubiquitous on television. I got to watch Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy every single day, to the point where I not only memorized their films but felt as if I knew them. It might be tougher for a newcomer to embrace the duo right away, but I know that familiarity will breed the opposite of contempt: the more you see of them, the more you’ll understand and like them. That’s because they almost never broke character: there is no reason to believe that the fellows you see onscreen aren’t exactly who they seem to be.

In a similar vein, it’s impossible to think of Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and “Curly” Howard as actors playing characters: after just one short subject we are completely convinced that this is who they are. (And remember, in the 1930s and 40s, there were no talk shows to “expose” them to the public.)

On the other hand, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby gleefully broke the fourth wall and spoke directly to the audience—when that audience was gathered together in a theater, long before the advent of television—and made “inside” jokes that referred to their show business personas and popular radio shows. Moviegoers loved their irreverence.

Vaudevillians like Wheeler and Woolsey and nightclub performers like Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis found their own niche in movies…and, as I said before, bore no resemblance to any other duos.

This brand of show business has all but disappeared, but the enduring entertainment value of these films speaks to the timelessness of great comedy and the impact of watching inspired entertainers at work. So sit back and enjoy!
Copyright  2016 by Leonard Maltin

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Legends of Laughter 2: The Comedy Teams

They came from vaudeville and Broadway, from the silent cinema and radio, and later, the nightclubs. They are some of the most recognizable names in American screen comedy—names that are synonymous with Hollywood’s golden age. Laurel & Hardy… The Marx Brothers… Abbott & Costello…. Individual talents who, through destiny or chance, became united with partners just as talented. Legends were born, and they’ve entertained generations ever since. These are the faces of comedy. This is Legends of Laughter 2: The Comedy Teams.

This spring, the Park Ridge Public Library Classic Film Series returns for its eighth season with a series devoted to the movie comedy teams of the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. In addition to the most famous teams, the series will showcase the lesser-known comedy acts that managed to carve out a niche for themselves. Comics like Wheeler & Woolsey churned out vehicle after vehicle at RKO with their bawdy, vaudevillian sensibility and Pre-Code lunacy. And Olsen & Johnson, Universal’s other comedy act, were visually inventive, offering audiences deliriously surreal sight gags that were ahead of their time.

Wheeler & Woolsey
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If there were ever two patron saints of comedy, it was Laurel & Hardy. To this day, they are universally recognized for the good cheer they’ve brought to millions and the almost magical ease with which they accomplished this onscreen. There was Ollie, the larger man with his “tie twiddle” and his exasperated stares into the camera; and Stanley, the smaller, more child-like man who would often cry while pulling up his hair. Stan & Ollie were a team built on the law of opposites with a strong, deep abiding love and affection for one other. It is this affection that always seemed to transcend the “nice messes” each put the other through. The warmth that these two characters felt for each other, and which we feel towards them, is a quality few other comedy teams possessed.

They were from opposite worlds. Stan Laurel was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson in Ulverston, Lancashire, England. He came from the English music hall tradition, traveling with the same troupe of stage performers that produced Charlie Chaplin. In fact, Stan Laurel had been Chaplin’s understudy in the Fred Karno troupe. After touring America in vaudeville, Stan made the U.S. his home and later became a writer and director for producer Hal Roach.

Laurel & Hardy
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Oliver Hardy was born in the American South, in Harlem, Georgia. “Babe” Hardy could sing, but it was the call of the cinema that drew him to comedy. He appeared in many silent films, usually in support of other silent comics like Larry Semon. Eventually, Oliver Hardy, too, became part of Hal Roach’s stock company in the mid-1920s. In 1926, with the assistance of Hal Roach and director Leo McCarey, Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy were brought together and movie history was made.

Their slapstick was rooted in visual comedy. Their films did not always have the frantic pace of other comedies; their success rested in the timing and deliberate buildup of a gag. The timing is best displayed in their “tit-for-tat” routines which contained a high degree of destruction of personal property! Over the course of nearly a quarter century, the duo would appear in dozens of films, but the most polished were those made for Hal Roach.

Laurel & Hardy came together within the medium of film, but for the Marx Brothers, it was on the stage where the spotlight first shone…

The Marx Brothers
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They remain one of the most popular teams of all-time. They poked fun at everyone– and everything. They were the Marx Brothers: Groucho, the cigar-smoking ringleader with the greasepaint mustache; Harpo, the horn-honking, girl-chasing throwback to the silent world comics; Chico, the piano playing Italian who wasn’t really Italian; and Zeppo, the romantic straight man sometimes lost in the shuffle. Whether it’s a television marathon on New Year’s Eve or a screening during Legends of Laughter, their movies will always be revived. They remain a laughing tonic against life’s troubles.

The brothers were born in the closing decades of the 19th century and were already performing by the first decade of the 20th century. The sons of Jewish immigrants who lived in a poor section of New York’s Upper East Side, the Marx brothers became a family act that grew up in vaudeville. It was here, through trial and error, where they worked out their material and formed their classic personas. By the mid-1920s, they were stars on Broadway, excelling in musical comedy. Beginning in 1929 with The Cocoanuts, the Marx Brothers became movie stars. In their best films, the brothers were known for a type of anarchistic comedy in which institutions, authority figures, and even society matrons were mocked—usually by Groucho. The lines were often absurd, the situations, surreal. Their brand of lunacy hit its creative peak with 1933’s Duck Soup. Directed by Leo McCarey, the film utilized a variety of comedic forms –from satire and song to slapstick and pantomime. Their humor was predominantly in the dialogue– in Groucho’s puns and witty observations. For a medium learning how to talk, movies never had it so good.

But the Marx Brothers weren’t the only comics who made audiences laugh with clever verbal exchanges and rapid-fire dialogue. Nearly eighty years later, fans of classic comedy are still laughing at “Who’s On First?”

Abbott & Costello
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They did not sing. They did not dance. But in their films, Bud Abbot and Lou Costello were experts at what they did, whether it was those methodical word games or the timing of their lines. Bud and Lou never worked with Hal Roach or Leo McCarey, but their appeal rested in the stage routines where it didn’t matter who the director was; they didn’t need direction to make people laugh. In their films, Bud was usually the nattily-dressed fast-talker, and Lou, his child-like patsy who was easily confused. They were the most popular comedy team in the business until post-war America embraced a more unhinged style of comedy.

They were top ten box office champions throughout most of the 1940s, but they were equally successful on radio and later, television. William “Bud” Abbott, the greatest of all the straight men, came from a show business family. He had been a burlesque performer in the days when vaudeville had passed. Lou Costello had also performed in stock burlesque after first appearing in films as an extra and stunt double. Bud and Lou appeared together for the first time in 1936. It was during these years on the stage where they performed sketches they would further develop in motion pictures. By 1940, Universal Pictures had signed them to a contract, but it would be a year later before they would become major stars with the release of Buck Privates. Throughout the forties they starred in military service comedies and later, horror spoofs that extended their careers into the 1950s.

Legends of Laughter 2 will also showcase the team that succeeded Abbott & Costello in popularity: Martin & Lewis—the biggest comedy act of the 1950s and the first to skyrocket in the television age.

Legends of Laughter 2 runs from March 3 to May 26, 2016, at the Park Ridge Public Library. The screenings are free and begin at 7PM.

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A Night at the Theatre with the Marx Bros!

WHAT: A Night at the Opera (1935) on DCP
WHEN: March 10, 2016   7:30 PM
WHERE: Pickwick Theatre, Park Ridge
WHAT ELSE: Organist Jay Warren performs pre-show music at 7:00 PM. Also, the Laurel & Hardy short, Thicker Than Water (1935) will be screened at 7:30 PM.
HOW MUCH: $10/$7 seniors 60+/$8/$6 (advance)

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Kane Triumphs at Box Office!

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We had 582 patrons come out for our 75th anniversary screening of Citizen Kane on February 11, 2016. We are grateful to everyone who supported this showing of “the greatest film in American cinema”! A special thank you to producer Michael Dawson for his wonderful introduction and trailer montage on director Orson Welles. Over the years, Michael has met many people connected to Orson– family, friends, associates, and intimates– so we are grateful to him for sharing his knowledge on the art of Orson Welles.

The die-hards came out in 20 degree weather!
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Program host with his ticket taker…
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Shannon and Linda. For the non-hockey fans out there, that’s a Patrick “Kane” jersey.
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With producer Michael Dawson.
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Road to Xanadu: A Personal Reflection

Citizen Kane turns 75 this year. Our anniversary screening at the Pickwick Theatre on February 11 would’ve been more timely had the film actually been released in February, 1941, as it was originally intended. However, due to the controversy surrounding William Randolph Hearst– the film’s primary inspiration who carried great clout in Hollywood– the original release date was delayed until May, 1941. (See the documentary The Battle Over Citizen Kane for more on this aspect of its history.)

Our screening celebrates the legacy of what is widely acknowledged as the greatest movie in American cinema. Much has been written of Citizen Kane, and most of it by scholars far more knowledgeable on the subject than I. Instead of simply repeating information you can find elsewhere, I thought I’d say a few words as to how I came to discover this classic. (For those who are interested in the film’s fascinating production, I would highly recommend reading The Making of Citizen Kane by Robert L. Carringer, 1996.)

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My respect for Citizen Kane came later in life when I was already out of my teens. In fact, I knew about William Randolph Hearst before I had ever seen Citizen Kane. I vividly recall a trip in 1993 when I visited the Pacific Coast and toured Hearst Castle at San Simeon, the model for Kane’s Xanadu home. At San Simeon, I was aware of the Hearst connection to the Orson Welles film, but that was about it. I don’t even recall seeing Citizen Kane at Columbia College, but I do remember a screening of Welles’ follow-up, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942).

My first distinct memory of Citizen Kane was at the LaSalle Bank Theatre near Six Corners in Chicago. At that time in my life, there were other films I ranked higher, but I concede that my “Greatest Film of All-Time”– 1933’s King Kong— is more of a personal “favorite.” My History of Cinema teacher did point out to me that a little part of my beloved Kong is, in fact, in Citizen Kane. If you look closely at the Everglades scene in which Charles and Susan are encamped, you can clearly see backscreen projection of “birds” flying in the jungle. I was told this was from King Kong; however, I believe it’s actually from Son of Kong. (Either way, it’s one of the few times Welles used rear projection in Kane, and this particular footage was already available to him in the RKO library.)

A charcoal sketch of Xanadu by the great RKO matte artist Mario Larrinaga.
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When you grow up hearing repeatedly that such and such movie is the greatest, there is an inclination to go against the grain and seek alternatives, but all roads eventually lead back to Xanadu. That first theatrical screening at the LaSalle Theatre made an impression on me, instilling an appreciation that would grow in the years ahead with repeated viewings. The film is technically brilliant with an intricate storyline told in flashback chronicling the rise and fall of a newspaper tycoon.

Park Ridge Classic Film hopes to preserve the film’s standing in the public consciousness that this is the greatest movie of all time. With each generation, there is a tendency to look for something else as I had done, perhaps it’s a film with a level of expression that speaks more to that generation. In the 2012 Sight and Sound poll, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) became the new Number One. Vertigo is Hitchcock’s masterpiece, a great film, but it’s not the groundbreaking film that Citizen Kane is. Fifty or a hundred years from now, will Kane even be in the Top 5?  Look at the unfortunate fate of D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915)– a film once hailed as the greatest motion picture, and today it’s been relegated to screenings in art museums with historians speaking of its importance only in hushed tones. Of course, the nation’s shift in attitudes towards race and politics adversely affected The Birth of a Nation‘s standing. But how will succeeding generations view Kane— with reverence or boredom?

Citizen Kane is pure cinema, and its camera techniques broke all the rules in 1941. The film was shot by the best cameraman in the business, but will modern audiences really understand what went into those great visuals? Even in its day, Citizen Kane was not a popular film for the general audiences; it did not do well at the box office. Regardless of receipts, Orson Welles was a true visionary in every sense. Filmmakers should look to him and study his films because, unlike the mass mediocrity of filmmakers today, Welles didn’t rely on gimmicks, pixels, or noise. He was a great illusionist who elevated the medium with his artistry.

A controversial connection to Hearst: the Marion Davies-like character of Susan Alexander. In reality, Marion Davies was a more talented comedienne than Susan was a singer.
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On the surface, the story of Charles Foster Kane would not appear to be “relevant” to a millennial. What was topical in 1941 is unfamiliar in 2015. How many young people even know who William Randolph Hearst was? But the point is that it doesn’t matter when you watch Citizen Kane. Irrespective of the movie’s character antecedents, Kane‘s themes remain relevant– its drama just as riveting. At its core, Kane is the story of a man whose idealistic fervor becomes as hardened as the cold statuary he collects around him, whose innocence is crushed by the pursuit of power and wealth– a “root of all evil” moral that can be traced back to passages in the Bible.

I’d like to see young people come out and enjoy the experience and appreciate the things that make the film unique. A lot has been said of Orson Welles producing the film at the age of 25, and that certainly is remarkable. It’s given young filmmakers hope that their celluloid dreams can materialize. But we should also realize that Welles knew nothing about making a Hollywood movie prior to arriving on the RKO lot. The greatness of Citizen Kane is that it was a collaborative process. Welles’ vision was the driving force, but without talents like cinematographer Gregg Toland or screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz or art director Perry Ferguson, Citizen Kane might never have gotten off the ground, or if it had, Welles might’ve floundered without those other talents helping him.

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One of the misconceptions the general public has is that Orson Welles never made anything as good after Kane, that his last years were spent in exile from Hollywood making low-budget independent movies that never came close to the quality of his first movie. This is not the case, and this point will be discussed by our special guest, producer Michael Dawson. Mr. Dawson is a Chicago area filmmaker who has worked on the restorations of Othello (1952) and Chimes at Midnight (1966). He is an authority on the life of Orson Welles and he will be speaking onstage before the movie.

Citizen Kane screens this Thursday night at 7:30 PM. It will be presented in a stunning 4K digital restoration.


Citizen Kane: 75th Anniversary

WHAT: Citizen Kane (1941) 75th anniversary screening
WHEN: February 11, 2016   7:30 PM
WHERE: Pickwick Theatre, Park Ridge, IL
WHAT ELSE: Producer (and Orson Welles scholar) Michael Dawson will be our special guest; organist Jay Warren provides pre-show music at 7:00 PM
HOW MUCH: $10/$7 seniors 60+ ($8/$6 advance)

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A Fistful of Spaghetti: GBU at 50

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Thank you to the 465 patrons who came out to support our 50th anniversary screening of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on January 7, 2016. The new restoration of Sergio Leone’s definitive “spaghetti Western” looked spectacular on the big screen! And we had a lot of fun presenting it.

Our ticket-taker Shannon with the hottest ticket in town.
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Our loyal fans, Lee & Dee!
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Jay Warren, back in the saddle…
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Host and Hostess
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