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Vintage movies to light up the screen at Newport Cultural Center

Christopher Cousins | BDN
Christopher Cousins | BDN
John Bessey, a volunteer for the Newport Cultural Center, gives a reel-to-reel movie projector a test run on Friday, July 22, 2011. The cultural center will debut an old movie night Friday that will benefit from an anonymous donor's collection of films.
By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff

NEWPORT, Maine — There’s a difference between old movies and vintage movies.

Old movies are films made years ago, which might be available on VHS, DVD or by streaming them to your television from the Internet.

Vintage movies include many of those same titles, but come on a medium virtually unknown to younger generations: the chattering, flickering, grainy goodness of actual reel-to-reel film projected onto a white screen.

In a free program being debuted at 7 p.m. Friday at the Newport Cultural Center with Laurel and Hardy’s 1936 film “Our Relations,” vintage is the key word. With a projector owned by the center, a donated popcorn machine and films on loan from a local man’s collection, the center hopes to recreate an experience that has almost completely ceded to advances in technology.

“We’re trying to develop an interest in the old stuff,” said John Bessey, a volunteer tasked with running the projector by his wife, Trish Bessey, a member of the center’s board of directors. “We want to make sure it doesn’t fade away.”

Trish Bessey said the program will run approximately once a month and will include films from the days when moving pictures on a screen, as opposed to still ones, gave birth to the term “movies” and when dialogue created “talkies.” Though Laurel and Hardy will do both on Friday, future presentations will include silent movies and even a 1939 film called “Movie Queen,” which was filmed in downtown Newport with locals as extras.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Trish Bessey. “As the schedule unfolds, we’re hoping to encourage more and more people to come.”

Cultural Center Director Leigh Hallett said she is already hearing interest from community members.

“This idea in particular is an effort to reach out to another demographic in the community,” said Hallett. While the program is designed for people of any age, some of the movies, such as Laurel and Hardy, will make for a family-friendly event in air-conditioned comfort.

“I think it will hold children’s interest,” said John Bessey, who has a 7-year-old son looking forward to the presentation.

The Newport Cultural Center is located on Main Street in Newport. Admission on Friday will be free and popcorn and drinks will be for sale. Future vintage movie nights will be announced on the center’s website, www.newportculturalcenter.com.

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