After a 16-month hiatus from in-person screenings, UW Cinematheque has announced its summer programming series which begins Wednesday, June 30, marking its return to its screening room at 4070 Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave.
The six-week series of free feature films will occur Wednesdays through Fridays, screening a total of 18 films in their original or archival 35mm prints. The lineup for Cinematheque’s return includes a variety of classic films; three selected works from Charles Bronson’s filmography in honor of his centennial; contemporary Asian cinema standouts like Ann Hui’s “Song of the Exile"; the complete American works of French cinema icon Jean Gabin; Paul Verhoeven’s “The 4th Man,” and James Cameron’s bombastic blockbuster sequel, “Aliens,” among others.
“In the summertime, we sort of give ourselves license to go crazy and just sort of show the movies that we want to show. I think that’s a fun way to bring people back to the theater,” said Ben Reiser, head of donor relations and accounts at UW Cinematheque.
Seating capacity and safety practices will follow in line with UW’s current policies, with about 50 available seats per showing indicated by seat coverings; seats will be distanced six feet apart from one another. Because of the limited capacity, Cinematheque is also adding second screenings for many of the films.
All showings will begin at 5 p.m. and second screenings at 7 p.m.
In lieu of in-person screenings, Cinematheque transitioned to a virtual series of screenings alongside weekly supplemental podcasts discussing programmed films and speaking with a variety of filmmakers and screenwriters. The uncertainty of not knowing how long the conditions of the pandemic would persist was a challenging roadblock.
“It definitely took some adjusting,” Reiser said. “But I think the difficulty was in programming and finding things that were available to us.”
Reiser said Cinematheque’s virtual screening programming had to strike a tricky balance, locating films that distributors were willing to allow a limited number of viewers to access for free while trying to select titles that weren’t already available on most streaming platforms.
Director of Programming Jim Healy says that although the pandemic isn’t completely a thing of the past, he hopes those who are vaccinated can feel comfortable returning to theaters through Cinematheque’s latest season — an activity many cinephiles have missed over the past year or so.
“What we’re doing with Cinematheque will help remedy those wounds for others like me who have been missing movies in the theater,” Healy said.
Cinematheque’s first screening of the summer season on Wednesday, June 30 will be the 1937 film “Make Way for Tomorrow,” a film Orson Welles claimed “could make a stone cry.” Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi star as an aging couple who are forced to split apart and move in with their grown children after losing their home. The film inspired Yasujiro Ozu’s 1953 film “Tokyo Story,” which Cinematheque will also be screening the following evening on Thursday, July 1.
While all the major theater chains switched to digital years ago, UW Cinematheque is committed to screening movies on 35mm if at all possible, Reiser said.
“There’s something about watching 35mm, with all its scratches and some occasional splices… There’s something organic about that and something magical and it’s got its own energy. You really can’t replicate that with digital exhibition,” Reiser said.
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