Nostalgic Theatre: Memorable movies return to screen

June 2009 Posted in Arts, Culture & History

By Brenna Wiegand

Nostalgic Theatre Showtimes
Thursday, June 4: “Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell” (1951)
Thursday, June 18: “Spencer’s Mountain”
(1963; basis for TV series “Walton’s Mountain”)
Food and music, 6 p.m.; film at 7;
Fr. Bernard Youth Center, 980 S. Main St., Mt. Angel
Suggested Donation: $3 (proceeds benefit FBYC)
For more information, or to help with set-up,
call Richard Jackson, 503-873-8413

Richard Jackson shares his passion for collecting classic films with the public in a series of bi-monthly shows.The depth of Richard Jackson’s purpose for sharing his twin passions – Nostalgic Theatre and Golden Age Radio – reveals a third: helping others.

The Silverton resident’s newest means of sharing classic films takes the form of a three-month experiment culminating in June – depending on how things go…

Jackson, 53, has been a film collector since he was 15. Now, he’s sharing his movies with the public, transforming the auditorium of the Fr. Bernard Youth Center in Mt. Angel into an old-time movie house two Thursday nights a month.

“We have hot dogs, popcorn, strawberry ice cream and candy at nostalgic prices, music and the old cartoons like Woody Woodpecker and Deputy Dawg,” Jackson said. Once the projector illuminates the screen, “people start making pictures on the wall with their hands: bunnies; monkeys…”

Even once the movie starts, it’s OK to get up and move around.

“I don’t have it very dark during the films,” Jackson said. “The idea is not isolation but a place of community and laughing together. … I’ve got a good sound system.”

“This place has the right feel. I wanted some roominess so people can walk around, get snacks or chat.” Folks have been known to get up and dance to the 1940s swing Jackson spins prior to the show.

But more than community, Jackson says there’s healing in such trips back in time. He says that nostalgia has “grounds us; stabilizes us” in the midst of our uncertain lives.

“It has a calming, balming effect.”

“The Greek for nostalgia means ‘pain for the past,’” said Jackson. “But it’s a feeling that gives you strength because the past is a certain thing. The ‘Good Old Days’ weren’t necessarily good – but we lived through them. It can be a very safe place – for one hour.”

Although today’s audiences are accustomed to much more technologically advanced films, Jackson said even teens become fascinated with the likes of Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) when reminded that this is what their grandmother watched at their age. The films seem to bridge the generation gap – in a setting conducive to unity. They also educate.

Sure, laughs are shared over a film’s “cheesiness,” but then the sight and sounds of Jackson’s projector lure one’s attention: the way it works; even the smell of warm film. A discussion ensues about the evolution of film…

“These are wonderful films that build us up,” Jackson said. “What I’m craving is an atmosphere; something they can’t get someplace else.” …right down to having your hand stamped as you walk in to the sound of popcorn popping – and a uniformed candy lady.

“I know I’m doing something good here; something valuable to reconnecting with a rich past,” Jackson said. “My passion is bringing people together in community around an emotionally rich experience.”

“I left a life of ministry to pursue a career in entertainment,” he said. “It’s been a joy.” He teaches and gives presentations on golden age radio around the Northwest – at special events, schools and retirement centers.
It takes a bit of doing to set up and take down the old-time theater setting the same day; volunteers are invited to lend a hand. Whether this three-month trial reveals it or not, Jackson knows there’s an audience out there for Nostalgic Theatre.

“In New York City there are large groups that meet simply to watch 16-millimeter films,” he said, although at present he’d simply like a large enough crowd so the event pays for itself – with something left over for the youth center. After all, it’s his passion.

“If I can tell that something’s happened that night – something that’s joyous, it’s worth it for me.”

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