Any science-fiction fan worth his or her popcorn salt has seen classics of the genre such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner - many probably own the DVDs. But how many younger fans have seen these films the way they were intended to be viewed: on a big screen? In an age when repertory movie houses are few and far between, rare are the opportunities to step into a dark room and be dwarfed by the image of a circular space station floating on a field of stars.
This summer, the owners of Montpelier's Savoy Theater hope to change that. "Sci-Fi July" is a proposed series that would bring eight films to the cinema over four weekends in July, with showings on Friday and Saturday at 11 p.m. First, though, the Savoy is seeking some generous donors. A message to the theater's email list asks its patrons to consider "underwriting an entire film" for $200, or making smaller contributions such as $25 or $50.
Eric Reynolds, an assistant manager and projectionist who's worked at the Savoy for nearly four years, came up with the idea of "Sci-Fi July." He explains that the theater works with distribution companies that charge for both rental of the films and copyright permission to show them. While Reynolds says the sci-fi classics in question have been "secured" - that is, they will be available for rental - the Savoy needs more donations to cover the costs. "We're still hoping more people decide to do some underwriting on this."
The email to theater patrons explains, "This is an experiment for us and will help to gauge interest in possible future, theme-driven film series."
Why start with science fiction? Reynolds admits he's a fan. "I think since I've been working here, I've sort of had the idea rolling around in my head," he says. Savoy owners Rick Winston and Andrea Serota went for it, in part because "We definitely would like [the series] to tap into a younger audience," Reynolds explains.
While films like 1982's Tron - which features a live-action video game - may appeal to a slightly different audience from, say, The Lives of Others, Reynolds says "Sci-Fi July" won't conflict with the Savoy's art-house reputation. Movies such as Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville and Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris remind us that these acclaimed directors took the futuristic genre seriously: "They chose to make science-fiction films at the height of their creative power," says Reynolds.
Will viewers achieve that big-screen nirvana that older fans remember from their first childhood encounters with Kubrick, et al.? "Some of these films were originally shown on much larger screens than we have," Reynolds concedes. But, he adds, it's "still a lot bigger than a TV set."