For those of you new to the Hudson area who are exhausted of streaming movies and find yourselves with a newfound, undeniable thirst for the big screen, I want you to know there are options beyond driving up to Albany to watch the $200-million-to-produce ninth version of Fast & Furious starring Dame Helen Mirren.
One of the best places to watch movies on a big screen is The Crandell, the oldest single-screen movie theatre in Columbia County located on Main Street in neighboring Chatham. It seats 420 on the main floor and 122 on the balcony. It’s a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit theatre where tickets are $9 for non-members and memberships start at $45 per year. “Seats will be buffered,” informs executive director, Annie Brody. When you buy tickets online, once you select your seats, the immediate surrounding seats will be blocked from purchase by anyone else. According to Brody, it’s a “cautious approach” to reopening. Masks will be required for all until you reach your seat. Wait, Chatham sounds familiar. Yeah, it has one of the last standing video rental stores in the country, Video Visions, and I wrote about it earlier this year…
After a fifteen month pandemic pressured closure, The Crandell reopens next weekend in a grand way. A documentary filmed in the thick forests of Northern Italy about the last men on earth who can still find the elusive white Alba truffle, The Truffle Hunters, kicks everything off Thursday evening on July 1. Friday features a matinee, Dream Horse starring Toni Collette followed in the evening by the ultimate old school movie… JAWS!!! Yes, the film directed by Steven Spielberg in 1975 on a $9 million budget featuring a dramatic hunt to find a killer shark on the loose against the backdrop of Team Public Safety versus Team Tourism Dollars.
Keep in mind it was made in the 1970’s when women were routinely depicted as bimbos and white men always saved the day. If you can forgive that and appreciate it for what it is- this is a real gem and a unique opportunity. It’s how horror and action was created before $75 million of mundane computerized special “effects” and rocket flying superheroes became a regular part of the equation. If you were too young to watch it on the big screen like me, then get your tickets now!
A documentary about Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and a feature length film, The Climb (which was partially filmed at the Crandell) round out the rest of the weekend. Gone are the times when the Crandell showed the same film for a few weeks on a daily basis. Programming has expanded to include documentaries, shorts, international films and classics. Some films will be shown as early matinees, some as late matinees and some in the evenings.
L to R: Greg Cross, Assistant Operations Manager; Annie Brody, Executive Director; Cooper Lippert, Manager of Operations in front of The Crandell
Imagine how different and personal it is to walk into an old movie theatre (built in 1926) literally located on Main Street where everyone is there to watch the same film. Cozy camaraderie! A proscenium arch and red curtains frame the main screen and the stage covers the original orchestra pit. There is a balcony with original seating that is open during the FilmColumbia festival in October which welcomes 7500 moviegoers to watch fifty films on two screens in ten days. Word on the street is the festival will take place this year and begins October 15. There is also the Farm Film Festival which normally takes place in March. This year it happened virtually. It shall resume in person in 2022.
After movies, people tend to gather under the marquee sign and chat with others they know. “Our people feel like this is their living room,” says Brody. “If you don’t know anyone, you at least recognize people because you’ve seen them around town,” she continues. Small Town Big Movies is their motto.
Rather than walk through a mall, or try to figure out which wing of a megaplex you need to truck down in order to locate your theater, why not walk up to a marquee sign, buy your ticket, walk in and boom- find the concession stand in between both theatre entrances. Newsflash: that will change. Renovations will begin in January 2022 to extend the lobby into one of the store fronts to create a cozy café. There are many upgrades planned and fundraising will continue this summer.
Additionally, programming is expanding! The Crandell can schedule movies for a month at a time. The month of July promises an amazing array of programming. Especially for those of you that like to pass each day watching endless 20-second videos of animals on social media, one notable documentary is Gunda by Russian director Viktor Kossakovsky which appears to be in black and white and completely devoid of human dialogue, narration, voiceovers and background music.
From what I can gather it looks less voyeuristic and more observational but still manages to tell a story. “Gunda” is the name of the protagonist, a pig who just gave birth to a bunch of adorable piglets. It took Kossakovsky decades to find financing. He somehow managed to get the film in front of Joaquin Phoenix who jumped on board immediately as executive producer. It received four stars from RogerEbert.com and has a 96% rating on the Tomatometer. The trailer is fascinating. I’m in. I’ll be there.
Another interesting documentary is Summer of Soul which looks back at the epic 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival (attendance: 300,000) that most people have never heard of because it overlapped with the Woodstock music festival (attendance: 400,000) in upstate New York. This documentary features a mix of original footage with contemporary interviews of the performers and attendees who were there.
If documentaries aren’t your thing, there are feature length films such as the Saudi film The Perfect Candidate where a female doctor runs for city council in a small town where women generally do not do that, and Minari about immigrant life in the Ozarks. If you can’t get enough of Steven Spielberg, Raiders of the Lost Ark opens on July 9.