More than a century ago, Americans started watching movies in a movie theater. It was June 19, 1905 when theater owners Harry Davis and John Harris showed a series of silent stories that became insanely popular and led to the birth of the motion picture industry.
As technology evolved with color and sound, drive-in theaters, 3D movies, snacks and concessions, and specially designed chairs were added to enhance the experience of seeing a movie in the cinema.
As the world grappled with the pandemic, online streaming services took the lead as Hollywood delayed the release of major studio films, and in turn traditional cinemas struggled but found a way to survive. Instead of showing new films, cinemas went back to what was once gold – classic films.
Though new movies come out every week like Top Gun: Maverick, Minions: The Rise of Gru, Elvis, and Thor: Love and Thunder, classic movies have carved their own niche in a crowded industry.
“Classic Movie Nights first launched in August 2014 and has been an integral part of the Jefferson Theater ever since,” said Emily Wheeler, director of event services for the City of Beaumont. “We show films from many decades and genres, and while we repeat some titles annually, we try to offer as many new ones as possible. Often people have never seen these titles on the big screen, and there is no better or more magical place to see a film than the Jefferson Theater.”
Located at 345 Fannin Street in downtown Beaumont, the Jefferson was built in 1927. It has been the setting for some of the world’s greatest motion pictures, including It’s A Wonderful Life, which premiered at the Jefferson Theater in 1947 with star James Stewart and director Frank Capra in attendance.
“The Jefferson was built to show movies,” Wheeler said. “The style of the 1927 theater makes it a unique experience that will leave an impression on the participants. We want people to bring their kids so they have a lasting reminder of seeing movies at the historic theater downtown.”
The upcoming Classic Movie Night at Jefferson features Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back on Friday July 15th, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl on Friday July 22nd and Titanic ” on Friday. 29th of July.
They have also added “Foreign Film Nights” on Thursdays with titles such as “The Hidden Fortress” (Japanese) on Thursday July 14th, “Pans Labyrinth” (Spanish) on Thursday July 21st and “Parasite” (Korean). Thursday 28 July.
“Foreign movie nights are unique and give people a chance to see something they wouldn’t have seen anywhere else,” Wheeler said.
Old has become new again, especially in pop culture. Young viewers discover music their parents and grandparents heard, as well as older films.
“We’ve always attracted a wide range of ages,” Wheeler said. “This is a great outing for young people and offers a safe, affordable and unique experience to enjoy with friends. We also organize several themed evenings throughout the year with competitions, costumes and live music.
“Our team is constantly thinking about film ideas. We factor in movie anniversaries, sequels, current trends, and so on to help us plan for the year ahead.
Tickets for Classic Movie Nights at the Jefferson are $6 for adults and $4 for children and can be purchased online at beaumonteventstx.com. The films start at 7:00 p.m. Wheeler added that sponsors like ExxonMobil have helped make Classic Movie Night possible from the start.
The Boomtown Film Society is partnering with the Pour Brothers Brewery as well as the Jefferson Theater for several events to coincide with the 1957 sci-fi thriller Plan 9 from Outer Space, which has been called the “worst movie ever” and will feature comedy commentary throughout the film at 8 p.m. Death Race 2000 will be shown on Pour Brothers on Thursday, August 11th.
Four Southeast Texas composers have created an all-new original musical score for the silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” from 1920, which will be performed at the Jefferson Theater on Saturday, July 23 at 7pm. Each composer individually wrote music in their own style for a different 20-minute section of the film.
Other locations have also created new opportunities to show films, particularly in some sort of outdoor setting.
The McFaddin-Ward House, a Beaux-Arts Colonial style home built in the early 1900’s and since turned into a museum on Calder Ave. from 1906, presented its “Movies of the Decade” for the first time in June while guests watched films on the lawn with the beautiful house as a backdrop.
The series concludes with “Singin’ in the Rain” on Thursday, July 21 at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free.
Movies on the Beach will be held on Galveston Island, which is also free to attend. Her schedule includes “The Little Mermaid” on Thursday, July 14 at Seawolf Park, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” on Saturday, July 23 at East Beach, “In the Heights” on Saturday, July 6 at Seawolf Park. August, in Stewart Beach, “The Finest Hours” on Thursday, August 11, at Seawolf Park, “The Endless Summer” on Saturday, August 27, in East Beach.
-Chad Cooper, entertainment editor