Small-town movie theaters are in a fight for their lives.
Hollywood studios are phasing out 35-millimeter film in favor of going digital. This means theaters are feeling the pressure to spend thousands of dollars to upgrade their facilities, or be forced to close their doors.
One such theater is The Rialto, about to mark its 100th anniversary in Grayling.
Jordan Stancil's great-grandfather founded the Rialto Theater in 1915.
The Rialto ran a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to raise money to upgrade its systems, and Stancil tells us they raised over $100,000 with the support of current and former residents of Grayling.
People will be watching their old home movies, all over the world, on "Home Movie Day." The big event happens Saturday, October 18th. Organizers call it "an annual, worldwide celebration of amateur films."
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore no longer will serve on the Michigan Film Office Advisory Council after Republican Gov. Rick Snyder named a suburban-Detroit businessman to replace him.
Moore joined the council as an appointee of then-Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
Snyder announced Thursday that he was renominating a second film council member whose term was expiring along with Moore's.
As social media has embedded itself into our lives, so too has the national conversation about bullying.
Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media have given bullies boundless opportunities to torture their victims. What used to be something that happened in school halls and classrooms now finds its way into every corner of the lives of our young people.
One of the voices that has joined this conversation about bullying is that of a Michigan filmmaker. Her newest film, shot in Oakland County, is called "The Bully Chronicles."
It brings us the story of teen bullying through the eyes of the bully, and she recently turned to the Huffington Post, where she wrote to the teens accused of bullying a 12-year-old Florida girl to the point where she committed suicide by jumping off a tower.
An interview with Philip Hallman with the University of Michigan's Department of Screen Arts and Culture.
Ask any baby-boomer about some of their best memories growing up and chances are good that a drive-in theater figures in there somewhere.
It was a wonderful and uniquely American thing: roll up to the parking spot, perch the little speaker on your window, order lots of food, and watch movies from your car. Kids would go in their PJs and watch movies while lying on the roof. For teenagers in the 50s, 60s and 70s, well, perhaps the movie was a secondary attraction.
This summer marks the 80 year anniversary of the invention of the drive-in movie theater. After a slow start, the trend really took off. Detroit got its first drive-in theater in 1938.
Let's take a trip back in time to the glory days of the drive-in. Joining us is Philip Hallman with the University of Michigan's Department of Screen Arts and Culture.
During World War II, a plane crashed behind Nazi lines. Thirty nurses and medics, five of them from Michigan, survived. Their incredible story is finally being told.
And, we celebrated the 80th anniversary of the drive-in movie theater. Did you know Michigan once had more than 100 drive-ins? Today just a hand full are in operation. Also, Kevyn Orr canceled the bus tour he was supposed to take the Detroit's creditors on today. We spoke with Nancy Kaffer about why this happened. First on the show, this has certainly been a wet and muggy summer. Michigan farmers endured a hot and dry summer in 2012, so we wondered what the soggy summer of 2013 is doing to crops and to farmers. Is it better than the scorcher of 2012?
Ken DeCock is a third-generation farmer in Macomb Township where his family owns Boyka's Farm Market. He joined us today to give us the farmer's-eye view of our weather.
The festival debuted in Ann Arbor last year. After a successful trial run, it's back this year and it's larger than before. Films will be screened at venues in Ann Arbor and at the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit.
Filmmaker Ken Burns is hands-down one of the world's leading creators of documentaries.
He has helped modern-day audiences understand and appreciate The Civil War, World War II, the jazz age, prohibition, baseball, the Shakers, America's national parks and many more aspects of American life.
Now, he is returning to Ann Arbor, the town of his boyhood.
He'll be here to talk about race and inequality as part of the Penny W. Stamps lecture series but more importantly to present his film, "The Central Park Five" at the Ann Arbor Film Festival.
ArtPod! With storytellers, actors, students and movie buffs.
Come gather round ArtPod this week, as we rip off Bob Dylan for a cute headline.
Today, ArtPod is talking about change. All kinds of change: political, cultural, even technological change.
We’ll talk with a storyteller, actors, students and even the operators of a small town movie theater about how they deal with bad changes (the end of an era for mom-and-pop cinemas), weird change (so you've got an emergency manager! Now what?), and cultural change (the tricky, tricky task of talking about race).
Their projects are radically different, but they each help us talk about or understand a difficult change – which may be what all art is supposed to do.
So long to film. Listen to the broadcast version of this story.
This is a big weekend for film fans, but the movies honored this weekend at the Oscars may be the last ones to be in theaters as actual "films."
And that’s bad news for many small neighborhood and drive-in theaters in Michigan.
A night at the neighborhood theater
The Friday night crowd is gathering in the lobby of the Sun Theater in Williamston.
Everybody seems to know everybody else at this small, one screen, neighborhood movie house. From the low ticket prices and very affordable concessions, the Sun Theater is a throwback, and that’s especially true for what’s at the top of the stairs at the rear of the theater.
35 millimeter film is flickering through a projector, which shines that night’s movie on to the silver screen.
It’s basically the way films have been shone for a hundred years, but that’s about to end.
The film, Middle of Nowhere tells the story of a young woman caught between loyalty to her incarcerated husband, and possibilities she finds outside the walls of the prison. Jennifer White interviews actor Omari Hardwick who portrays Derek, the incarcerated husband. Hardwick has also appeared in the films Sparkle and For Colored Girls, to name a few. Ava DuVernay won the Best Director Award for the film at the 2012 Sundance film festival, the first time that award has been won by an African American woman. The film is showing in Southfield.
Russ Collins, executive director of the Michigan Theater, says festival organizers expect about 5,000 attendees this weekend.
Over the four-day festival, 35 mainstream films will be screened primarily in the Michigan and State Theaters.
Collins notes that this festival is different from the longstanding Ann Arbor Film Festival because that event's focus is on experimental films.
"The Cinetopia International Film Festival is a festival that celebrates the feature length, story-based films that you're going to see at festivals like Toronto and Sundance," Collins says.
The festival opens Thursday night with a party and screening of Tod Louiso's "Hello I Must Be Going" and continues with Sundance-acclaimed films like "I Am Not a Hipster."
"It seems like our ambient interest in cinema and the ability of our town to host festivals and special events would make Ann Arbor an exceptionally good place to do a film festival of a large scale," says Collins,
There are high hopes for this pilot event. Festival organizers plan to expand the event into an 11-day festival for Ann Arbor and Detroit.
- Julia Alix Smith-Eppsteiner, Michigan Radio Newsroom
The movie Chimpanzee from Disney Nature opens in theaters today.
It follows a young chimp, Oscar, who is separated from his troop, and is adopted by an alpha male named Freddie.
John Mitani was a scientific consultant on the film. He's a primate behavioral ecologist and University of Michigan Professor of Anthropology. Mitani’s research centers on the behavior of male chimps and why males co-operate.
According to Mitani, it's not uncommon for young chimps to be separated from their parents. Often they are adopted by close relatives. But what's unusual in this story is that Oscar was adopted by an adult male chimp "which rarely or never has been seen," Mitani says.
“It’s not as if male animals, male primates, male chimps are generally helpful to others. Why he should go out of his way to help this poor little helpless infant who was not obviously his own is really the thing that is quite interesting and unusual in this.”
The film took three years to make, and actually follows two main groups of chimps, one filmed in west Africa and one filmed in east Africa. Through the magic of movie making we get one story. Mitani recognizes the film has two qualities. One scientific and the other purely entertaining.
On today's Artpod, we hear from the festival's director, Donald Harrison. We also catch up with two longtime fans of the festival - one: an audience member, the other: a filmmaker - to hear some of their favorite film fest memories.
Festival-goer: "Every year I find at least two or three films that are just amazing."
John Johnson has been going to the Ann Arbor Film Festival since the late 1960s, and considers himself a big fan of the event.
He's such a big fan that when a film he likes doesn't win an award at the festival, he sends the filmmaker a "a few dollars myself and tell them what a great film it was." He says he's probably done that about four times, three of which have resulted in a letter back from the filmmaker and a DVD copy of the film.
One of his favorite memories was when he saw Claude LeLouch's "Rendezvous" at the 1976 film festival. He says the film "totally blew my mind," left him with goose bumps.
Johnson says every year he finds "at least two or three films that are just amazing, from my point of view." He says it's worth sitting in the theatre for hours to get to the films "that are just amazing that you would have nowhere else to see."
More than 5,000 films have been screened at the festival over the past five decades. The festival has gone through its ups and downs during that time, too, including cuts to state funding and a high-profile censorship controversy several years ago.
Donald Harrison, the festival’s executive director, says more than 230 films will be shown this time around, many by obscure filmmakers.
"We really encourage people just to have that open mind, that sense of discovery," says Harrison. "We guarantee that people will see things that really affect them in a rewarding way, and of course they’ll see things that maybe they don’t care as much about, but that’s probably someone else’s favorite film in the festival."
We caught up with two longtime fans of the festival - an audience member, and a filmmaker – to hear some of their favorite film fest memories.
According to Ashenfelter, Thompson is seeking refunds for concession stand customers along with payment of a civil penalty by the theater for what he considers to be a violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.
Yes, yes... there are a lot of abandoned buildings and sad reminders of better times in Detroit.
While some artists come to Detroit to gawk at the "ruin porn," as Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra has pointed out, the filmmakers of the new documentary "Detropia" say they hope people take away something other than a sense of awe at the decay.
Co-directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady say they want their audience to understand the people who stayed behind in Detroit:
"Initially when we went there, we were just looking for this Phoenix story. We were hoping that there were people on the ground there that were really just going to fix the place. But after spending a couple years filming there, and spending time with our characters we realized that was really just a very dishonest story," said Grady.
Answer This!, a film by University of Michigan alum Christopher Farah, takes you out to the bars of Ann Arbor, where diehard trivia teams—like the Ice Tigers —face off for a glory far greater than a round on the house.
The movie follows Paul Tarson, a U of M graduate student played by Christopher Gorham. Afraid to make any decisions about his post-academic life, Tarson redirects his intellectual energy toward a citywide pub trivia tournament, much to the disappointment of his professor father, played by real life U of M Professor Ralph Williams.
Funded in part by the now suspended Michigan Film Office incentives program, Answer This! was filmed almost entirely on the U of M campus and around Ann Arbor. It is the first movie to receive official sanction from the university.Farah said it was important for him to locate the film in his hometown. He and his brother Mike Farah, who produced the film, tried several bigger, broader scripts before settling on Answer This!.
“None of those stories really resonated with us,” said Farah. “We wanted to do something that would kind of take us back to something we could really connect with.”
Farah uses the locations in the film to create that same hometown feeling for moviegoers.
“What we did,” said Farah, “was try to take a lot of those places that go beyond the really famous Ann Arbor spots...no matter what town or what city it’s in, people can relate to those kind of places, whether it’s a great corner bar or a pond or rope swing that only they knew about back where they were growing up.”
For audiences from Ann Arbor, this has the effect of making the familiar seem epic.
“A sidewalk outside Ashley’s feels so big in the movie...When you walk by it, it just kind of feels like a sidewalk. But in a movie, it feels like A SIDEWALK,” said Farah. “It’s taking that Ann Arbor that we know, and is somehow blowing it up to cinematic proportions.”
Answer This! opens this weekend in Ann Arbor, Novi and Grand Rapids.
We wrap up our Stories from the North Woods series with a look at how cities and towns from Detroit to Marquette are bringing new life to their old movie palaces.
The Vista Theater as community theater
When the Vista Theater opened in Negaunee in the 1920s, the Upper Peninsula town was booming. Alfred Keefer says the Vista "was the theater to be at, and they would fill this house up on movie nights."