The Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation has been offering free movie screenings to the public since September, 2008 in its beautiful 205-seat Art Deco theater, usually three times a week. In 2013, live performances were added to the mix.
There were a number of special guests who introduced films, two workshops, and some of the finest live musical accompaniment for silent films that can be found in the world. If you haven’t been there yet, make a New Year’s resolution to attend a show. I’ll bet it will become a habit.
The schedule can be found at loc.gov/avconservation/theater and in the calendar section of the Star-Exponent. It is usually posted on the web site one to two weeks in advance. There is also a Facebook page, “A Fan of the Packard Campus Theater,” not affiliated with the Library of Congress or the Packard Campus, where events at the theater are posted. Flyers are available at screenings and at the Culpeper Visitor’s Bureau.
Seating is on a walk-in basis, but if you want to make sure to have a seat, you can pick up free tickets at the State Theatre box office from 10-2, Tuesday through Saturday, or through their web site at www.culpepertheatre.org.
Here is my opinion of the Top Ten special events at the Packard Theater in 2013.
1. April 27 - Woolf comes to Culpeper
“Damn Yankees!” (Warner Bros., 1958) with 92-year-old legendary sportscaster Bob Woolf, who donated his vast collection of momentous recordings in sports history to the Library of Congress, on hand for a Q&A after the film screening. Woolf was the announcer for the Yankees in the 1950s.
2. May 10 - Texas swing: First ever live performance at the theater The Quebe Sisters Band -- Live in Concert! The three sisters and two additional band member’s blend of western swing, vintage country, bluegrass, jazz and swing standards, and Texas-style fiddling was a sell-out and a crowd pleaser.
3. June 1- Honoring Deanna Durbin
“Spring Parade” (Universal, 1940) Shown as a tribute to Soprano-actress Deanna Durbin who passed away in April, 2013 at the age of 91. Durbin stars in this Oscar nominated musical as a Hungarian peasant woman who finds romance with a handsome army drummer (played by Robert Cummings) who secretly dreams of becoming a famous composer. Directed by Henry Koster, this new print produced by the Library of Congress Film Preservation Lab.
4. June 6 to June 8 - Film archeology
The Packard Campus hosted "Mostly Lost,” a free workshop for archivists, scholars and silent-film buffs, to screen and identify silent and early sound films that have been unidentified, under-identified or misidentified. The workshop featured unidentified films from the Library’s collections as well as from other archives, including the George Eastman House, Museum of Modern Art, the UCLA Film & Television Archive and EYE Film Instituut Nederland in Amsterdam. Attended by 76, the workshop included three evening screenings that were open to the public.
5. June 15 - The First Aviation Documentary - The Wright Brothers and the First Military Airplane
The Wright brothers made history at Fort Myer in July 1909, successfully demonstrating the first military airplane in the final requirement for their contract with the U.S. Army. Writer, educator, and filmmaker Paul Glenshaw gathered all known footage of the event and meticulously re-edited it into the sequence it was originally shot, placing the viewer as an eyewitness to the birth of military aviation. The film was presented with live narration by Glenshaw.
6. July 12 - “Stella Dallas” (Goldwyn, 1925)
Print courtesy of UCLA Film and Television Archive and live musical accompaniment by Londoner Stephen Horne, who also spoke about his personal connection to the film. In this rarely seen silent version of Olive Higgins Prouty’s popular novel, Stella, the daughter of a factory worker, marries Stephen Dallas, an upper class executive who is well above her station. After the mismatched couple separate, Stella raises and dotes on their daughter until she realizes that Stephen and his new wife can provide the child with opportunities that she cannot. Directed by Henry King, the drama stars Ronald Colman, Belle Bennett, Alice Joyce, Lois Moran and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
7. Aug. 1 to Aug. 3 - Wild, wild west
The Packard Campus hosted a unique educational and cinematic experience for local teachers as part of The Film Foundation’s innovative educational initiative, "Story of Movies." The free, three-day seminar, "The American West and Western Film Genre," offered educators an interdisciplinary curriculum covering this important period of American history (1860-1900) and exploring how 20th-century filmmakers represented this era. As part of the seminar, three matinees and three evening screenings were open to the public including “Hell’s Hinges,” “Stagecoach,” “My Darling Clementine” and “Shane.”
8. Sept. 14 - Mike and Mark at the Mike: Celebrating Comedy on the National Recording Registry
Popular standup comedians Mike Diesel and Mark Matusof appeared in a live performance on the Packard Campus stage. National Recording Registry Board Assistant and Television Historian Cary O'Dell hosted the evening which also featured a presentation by stand-up comedy expert Dan Blazek about comedy recordings that are on the National Recording Registry.
9. Oct. 26 - The Beauty of Bulgarian Music and Dance
The Kolorit Orchestra from Chicago and the New York-based Bosilek Bulgarian Folk Dance Ensemble performed live together for an afternoon of Bulgarian music and dance.
10. Nov. 2 - “The Half-Breed” (Fine Arts Film Company, 1916)
Film preservationist Rob Byrne presented the new restoration print by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and Cinémathèque Française and discussed how various prints of “The Half-Breed” were found, combined, and restored to its present condition. Douglas Fairbanks plays a half-Native American social outcast living in the forest who ultimately finds acceptance from a medicine show dancing girl. The western drama was directed by Alan Dwan. Ben Model provided live musical accompaniment.
Jenny Paxson, originally of Dayton, Ohio, works at the Library of Congress Packard Campus. A longtime film buff, moving images historian and an ever-present friendly personality, she creates the slide shows that play before the free weekly screenings in the Packard Theater and helps with publicity. Paxson, in addition, is the No. 1 fan of actor and producer Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (1909-2000).