Tag Archives: Westport Cinema Initiative

Westport Cinema Initiative Adds Partner, Adopts New Mission

Westport Cinema Initiative — the organization dedicated to bringing a movie theater back to town — has added “contagious new energy.”

That’s their phrase, in an announcement made moments ago. The energy comes in the form of “enthusiastic new board members who are passionate advocates for people with disabilities.”

The group — Creating Acceptance through Purposeful Employment (CAPE) — has pursued an employment model similar to the Prospector Theater in Ridgefield. That’s the non-profit, first-run movie house that’s enjoyed great success hiring and training people with disabilities.

WCI and CAPE are now officially merged. The combined organization has an amended mission: “A non-profit movie theater acting as a cultural and community hub, providing training and purposeful employment to adults with disabilities.”

The new board is “more dedicated than ever to building a theater in Westport” — with “an additional focus on employment and inclusion in town.”

Members of the new board are Joanna Borner. Stacie Curran, Marina Derman, Cornelia Fortier, Diane Johnson, Diane Kwong-Shah, Larry Perlstein, Jeffrey Peterson, Lee Rawiszer, Jonathan Steinberg, Deirdre Teed, Douglas Tirola
and Michelle Vitulich. Founding director Sandy Lefkowitz will serve on the professional advisory committee.

Friday Flashback #102

Some things never change. The only constant is change.

Those 2 adages — which, like so many, sound completely contradictory — are expressed well in this fascinating photo:

The Post Road looks much as it does today. There’s traffic, stores, even the same trees, buildings and vistas.

But back when this photo was taken, the Post Road was called State Street. The shops and automobiles were different.

Look closely at the biggest building. That’s not even the Fine Arts Theater. In those days, it was called “Fine Arts Photoplay.”

Since 1999, of course, that property has been Restoration Hardware.

That may change too. Word on the street — State, Post Road, US 1, whatever you call it — is that the upscale home furnishings shop is slated to close.

If that rumor is true, I’ve got the perfect tenant. The Westport Cinema Initiative could convert it into — ta da! — a movie theater.

WestportREADS “Regeneration”

The Westport Library has kicked off its annual WestportREADS program. This year’s book is “Regeneration” — Pat Barker’s historical fiction about a British officer who refuses to continue serving during the “senseless slaughter” of World War I.

It’s a complex novel, exploring the effect of the war on identity, masculinity and social structure. There’s lots to dig into, and the library has created a number of events based on the book.

For example, next Saturday (January 13, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) is Digitization Day. Area residents can bring World War I keepsakes — your grandfather’s photo album; a stack of letters found in your great-grandmother’s attic; anything else like medals, keepsakes or objects — to the library.

They’ll be scanned or photographed by library staff members, as both a permanent record and to help create a profile of the World War I-era person you want to remember.

On Sunday, January 28 (2 p.m., Saugatuck Congregational Church) the West Point Glee Club performs music from World War I. Some may be familiar (“Over There”). But much will not.

Other organizations are involved too. One of the most intriguing is a collaboration with the Westport Arts Center and Westport Arts Advisory Committee.

On Thursday, February 1 (7 p.m., Westport Arts Center), the 3 groups sponsor a poetry event.

The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand (shown here with his family) helped set in motion events that led to World War I. Poets are invited to consider history — and current events — for the upcoming Westport Arts Center project.

Adults and high school students are invited to submit poetry, on broad themes: your interpretation of history, our current times, or the challenges we all face. Poets selected will read their work publicly.

The event is part of the WAC’s current exhibition, Ward Shelley’s “What Keeps Mankind Alive.” It features paintings that reveal how we all create narratives and stories to explain the world around us.

The deadline for submissions is Sunday, January 21. Click here for more information.

And on Saturday, February 10 (4 p.m., Westport Town Hall) the library partners with the Westport Cinema Initiative for a screening of “Letters From Baghdad.” The documentary tells the story of Gertrude Bell, a British spy and explorer who helped shape the modern Middle East after World War I in ways that reverberate today. Click here for tickets.

For a full list of WestportREADS activities, click here.

“High School That Rocked” Plans An Encore

It’s always fun to discover a “sleeper” film hit.

But it’s never fun to get turned away.

The Westport Cinema Initiative and Westport Historical Society were stunned last month, when the Town Hall auditorium proved too small for the throngs that wanted to see “The High School That Rocked!”

That’s the documentary chronicling the amazing period in the 1960s when bands like the Doors, Cream, Yardbirds and Rascals played at Staples High School.

Ginger Baker, Cream’s drummer, at Staples. (Photo copyright Jeremy Ross)

So the WCI and WHS are doing what any good promoters should: They’ve added another showing.

The film will be screened again on Saturday, August 26 (5 p.m., Westport Historical Society). A talkback follows, with the movie’s producer Fred Cantor, and filmmaker Doug Tirola. Both are Westport residents.

There’s limited space, so tickets must be ordered in advance (click here for the direct link). The cost is $10 — and includes free popcorn.

That’s a great bargain — even if it is $7.50 more than it cost to see those great concerts, back when Staples High School really rocked.

Unsung Hero #6

This Saturday at 4 p.m., when the Westport Cinema Initiative screens “The High School That Rocked!” Fred Cantor will sit contentedly in the Town Hall auditorium.

Few in the audience will know that the ever-smiling Westporter came up with the idea for a film about 6 major bands — you may have heard of the Doors? — that played at Staples High School in the mid-1960s.

Cantor then produced the intriguing film. He tracked down archival photos, arranged interviews and found funding.

Fred Cantor, at the opening of the Westport Historical Society’s “The High School That Rocked!” exhibit. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

After the talkback that follows the showing, Cantor will head across the street to the Westport Historical Society for a cocktail hour. Guests will enjoy the “High School That Rocked!” exhibit — inspired, and curated in part, by Cantor.

At 8 p.m. Saturday, Cantor will sit on the Levitt Pavilion grass. He’ll watch with satisfaction as an all-star cast of Staples High School 1971 classmates — Charlie Karp, Brian Keane and Michael Mugrage, all of whom played and recorded with the biggest names in entertainment — join several other very talented ’71 classmates for one of the best shows of summer.

Cantor masterminded that event too.

He won’t get much credit for any of this. But he won’t mind. It’s just his way of contributing to the life, joy and history of the town he’s called home since he was 10 years old.

Cantor moved to Easton Road with his family from Fresh Meadows, Queens. (He loves that place too — and wrote a book about the middle class families that thrived there after World War II.)

While serving as a public interest lawyer in New York City, he and his wife Debbie Silberstein bought a 2nd home on Drumlin Road. They now live there full-time. True to his volunteer — and community-minded — form, Cantor is active in his road association, and a great neighbor to all in need.

Fred Cantor, in the Staples High School 1971 yearbook.

His selfless ways are legion. Several years ago, a Staples freshman soccer player with a single mother had no transportation after practice and games. Every day, Cantor — a former soccer star at Staples and Yale — drove him home.

Twenty years ago Cantor combined his passions for soccer, writing and history with a book, “The Autumn of Our Lives.” He followed the Staples team for an entire season, and told a compelling story of the changes — and similarities — between 2 teams, 25 years apart.

Cantor has done more than perhaps anyone in the world to keep the Remains’ memory alive. The Westport band that opened the Beatles’ 1966 tour — and that was, Jon Landau said, “how you told a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll” — has been memorialized in an off-Broadway play (“All Good Things“) and documentary film (“America’s Lost Band“).

Cantor came up with the idea for both. And made sure that both got made.

Always, he stayed out of the limelight.

These days you can often find Cantor at the Westport Library. He’s researching some element of Westport history.

Often, that research — or simple inspiration — leads to an “06880” story idea.

You may not have known the enormous impact Fred Cantor has had on this blog. Or this town.

Now that he’s this week’s Unsung Hero, you do.

(Know of an unsung hero we should celebrate? Email details to dwoog@optonline.net)

Keir Dullea’s Long Journey: From “2001” To Westport

When Keir Dullea’s obituary appears, it will read: “He was the man behind the space helmet in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.'”

That’s not me talking. That’s the star himself. He knows that despite a film, stage and TV career spanning 6 decades, he will always be remembered for the epic 1968 film directed by Stanley Kubrick.

“2001” remains a science fiction masterpiece, nearly 50 years later. On Saturday, March 25 (4 p.m., Town Hall), the Westport Cinema Initiative hosts a showing. Immediately afterward, there’s a talkback — with Dullea himself.

He’s done this sort of thing all over the world. But this is a homecoming of sorts. Dullea is a longtime Fairfield resident. In 1983 he helped found the Theater Artists Workshop here.

Keir Dullea then...

Keir Dullea then…

Dullea says Dr. David Bowman was not his greatest role (that would be “David and Lisa”). Still, he notes, “I’m very proud of it. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to ‘Citizen Kane.'”

In fact, he adds, “2001” is the “Citizen Kane” of its era. Those two are among the most studied movies in film schools everywhere.

At the talkback later this month, Dullea may be asked what it was like working with Kubrick. It’s something audiences everywhere want to know. Despite the director’s temperamental reputation, the actor said he was “kind, quiet, and always open to suggestions.”

Dullea was “in awe” during filming. Though it was already his 8th feature, he was not yet 30 when production began. He never even had to audition: Kubrick liked what he saw in “Bunny Lake is Missing,” and sought him out.

The director did not know that Dullea had grown up as a science fiction fan — and read Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Sentinel” (upon which the film was based) as a teenager.

...and now.

…and now.

The film was long on music and special effects, short on dialogue. But after all these years, Dullea still remembers a long speech he delivered to mission control. It was filled with “technical gobbledygook” — but, like “2001” itself, it remain embedded in his (and his fans’) minds half a century later.

So why does “2001” stand up, long after the actual, then-faraway year has come and gone?

“It was such a visual experience. And it covers so many aspects,” Dullea says. “The concept of evil. Existentialism.  Technology. Artificial intelligence, extraterrestrial life, and wonder about what the far future holds for us. The evolution from caveman to contemporary man, and then the fetus showing what may be the next step.

“But in the end, there are still questions. Everything is not tied together in a neat bundle.”

Those themes still resonate with audiences today. Dullea regularly gets emails and autograph requests from people born long after the film was made.

On March 25, he looks forward to seeing fans of all ages here in Westport. Even those born after 2001.

(“2001: A Space Odyssey” will be shown on Saturday, March 25, 4 p.m. at Town Hall. Tickets are $10 general admission, $8 for charter members; they’ll be available soon at www.westportcinema.org. Sponsors include the Westport Cinema Initiative, Lee Rawiszer and Paradigm Financial Partners.)


Academy Awards Come To Westport

The closing of Oscar’s Delicatessen ended a great Westport tradition: the annual Oscars at Oscar’s pre-party.

But the Westport Cinema Initiative has filled the gap.

A number of local businesses have  become “polling places” for a contest. Just stop in and vote for who you think will win awards this Sunday in a variety of categories: Best Leading Actor and Actress; Best Supporting Actor and Actress; Best Director; Best Picture; Best Animated Feature; Best Documentary and Best Foreign Film.

Winners receive prizes donated by those merchants.

The contest ends this Sunday (February 26) at 4 p.m. You can vote at these locations:

  • Le Rouge by Aarti
  • iFloat
  • Francois du Pont Jewelers
  • Organachs Farm to Skin
  • Vincent Palumbo Salon
  • The Brownstone
  • Green & Tonic
  • The UPS Store
  • Downunder
  • Westport Hardware
  • Saugatuck Sweets
  • Joe’s Pizza
  • Simon Pearce
  • Body Quest
  • Soleil Toile

PS: As you enjoy the Oscars Sunday night, raise a glass in memory of Oscar’s.

Last year's pre-Oscars party at Oscar's was also deli owner Lee Papageorge's 65th birthday. His daughter Missy presented him with his very own statue. (Photo/Diane Lowman)

Last year’s pre-Oscars party at Oscar’s was also deli owner Lee Papageorge’s 65th birthday. His daughter Missy presented him with his very own statue. (Photo/Diane Lowman)

Who You Gonna Call?

I’m pretty sure these kids have never been to a drive-in movie:

(Photo/Seth Schachter)

(Photo/Seth Schachter)

They probably didn’t even know what one was, before today.

But they — and many other Westporters, of all ages — were pumped for our town’s 1st-ever drive-in movie, tonight at Compo Beach.

Homes With Hope and the Westport Cinema Initiative partnered to present “Ghostbusters.”

It’s a fundraiser — and fun.

Something for the boys in the photo to tell their grandchildren about.

Next Attraction: A Drive-In Theater!

Today’s teenagers have out on a lot of things:

Dial phones. Dial-up modems. Drive-in movies.

Stephen Rowland is a very involved Staples High School senior. Among other activities he’s a varsity soccer player, serves meals at the Gillespie Center, and is a Homes With Hope youth board member.

A year ago, his father casually mentioned drive-in movies. Intrigued by the concept, Stephen searched online for more.

Kids: This was how America used to roll.

Kids: This was how America used to roll.

Not long after, the Homes With Hope youth board was casting about for a new, exciting fundraiser.


Producing a pop-up drive-in movie in Westport is not easy. But Stephen and the rest of the youth board found a company with a 40-foot screen, projector and sound system.

Compo Beach — near the kayak launch — seemed like the perfect spot.

Permits were needed, from town commissions. But Stephen and his peers pushed hard.

“The idea of driving up to a movie, not getting out of your car, being comfortable and having fun, is pretty cool,” Stephen says.

So this Saturday (October 1, 7 p.m.), “Ghostbusters” — a 1984 classic chosen for its broad appeal to kids, teenagers and parents — will be shown on what is believed to be Westport’s 1st-ever drive-in movie screen.

The only other better choice would be “Back to the Future.”

(The Westport Cinema Initiative is a partner with this project. The cost is $30 per car — cheap enough so that no one has to hide in the trunk. Besides, proceeds benefit Homes With Hope. Beach stickers are not required. Joey’s by the Shore will be open for food. For more information, click here.)

See “Blade Runner” On Sunday — Then Talk With A Star

Sean Young has had a long acting career.

Film buffs have seen her in “Jane Austen in Manhattan,” “Stripes,” “Dune,” “Wall Street” and “Batman.”

But she’s best known for her role in “Blade Runner.” Today — 34 years after the Ridley Scott movie was released — she’s still recognized regularly on the streets of Astoria, where she lives.

The Westport Cinema Initiative has chosen “Blade Runner” — a cult classic thanks to its cutting-edge design, futuristic theme and dark, despairing vision of Los Angeles in the year 2019 (!) — for its next offering.

The showing takes place this Sunday, June 12 (5 p.m., Town Hall). It’s followed by a talkback featuring the movie’s own Sean Young, and film critic Susan Granger.

Sean Young in "Blade Runner."

Sean Young in “Blade Runner.”

Young calls “Blade Runner” a seminal moment in her career. “Actors can go their whole lives without an experience like that,” she says. “The sets, locations, what everyone wore — it was a tremendously rich production.”

Nearly 4 decades later — and just 3 years before the film was set — Young says that “Blade  Runner” has stood the test of time. “It still looks great. The dialogue was excellent. The music was beautiful. And we still don’t know what happens afterward. People really respond to it.”

Blade RunnerYoung knows that in 2016, many film buffs watch “Blade Runner” — and everything else — on TVs and mobile devices.

But, she says, there remains value in a large audience watching in an auditorium.

“There’s a much different feeling when a film is projected on a screen,” she explains. “It looks different than on a plasma TV or iPad. And just coming together as a community is important.”

Sean Young will be part of that audience on Sunday. Then she’ll add her own insights, in the talkback.

That’s one experience Netflix — the future of film that “Blade Runner” never foresaw – can’t duplicate.

(Tickets are available at the door, or by clicking here.)