When Sun Sets, Movie Starts at Lucky 13 Series
Charlotte Buchanan comes to movies and entertainment naturally. As a child, she lived across the street from a drive-in theater in Dallas. When she was 3, her mother left her in an auditorium seat while jumping on stage at the request of television's Cowboy Bob and Howdy Doody.
The fascination stuck, and she has been doing an outdoor movie gig since 1992, when she produced double features in Seattle. She recalls the 10,000 people who watched Fritz Lang's silent 1927 classic Metropolis with a 17-piece orchestra supplying the music.
Buchanan moved to Eureka Springs seven years ago to be a writer and a waitress. But she got involved again with entertainment production, with her Lucky 13 Starlight Cinema, a summer series of outdoor films.
"This is my art form," she says.
Lucky 13 Starlight Cinema, in its sixth year, has been scaled down from the original 13 to eight weeks of films. Starting today with Journey to the Center of the Earth, movies will be shown for a nominal admission charge each Sunday on the side of the Basin Spring Bath House on Main Street. Gates open at 7 p.m.; the show starts at dusk.
The series runs through July 26, with a final Sept. 6 screening on Labor Day weekend. A list of the movies and other details can be found at www. lucky13cinema.org.
"That, for me, will always be the kick in the pants, that you've talked all these people into hanging out in a parking lot for hours," she says. Other cities in Northwest Arkansas, including Fayetteville, Rogers, Fort Smith and Siloam Springs, have started free outdoor movie series.
In central Arkansas, the next film in the free Movies in the Park program at Riverfront Park in Little Rock will be Batman Begins, starting at sundown Wednesday. Details on that weekly series, running through July 29, are at www.moviesin theparklr.net.
The city of Eureka Springs doesn't contribute to Buchanan's series, so she solicits sponsorships; it takes about $13,000 to produce this summer's eightmovie series. She gets pledges by February, but waits until after the Oscars to finalize the slate of summer films.
A bulb for the film projector costs $500. Some movies are more expensive, such as Slumdog Millionaire, which will cost her $600 to show.
This summer's selection includes a variety of movies - from adventures to musicals. In past years, one-third of the crowds for Casablanca and Breakfast at Tiffany's had never seen those movies.
"So many people have never seen these amazing classic films," she says.
So she's trying to educate them.
Lucky 13 always has a B-movie night, and this year's is July 26, with The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953), the only movie ever written by Dr. Seuss, aka Theodore S. Geisel. It's a musical fantasy with set design by the author in his strange stylings. Many people her age saw it when they were young.
"But we're OK," she says.
She has been doing "good, clean, weird family entertainment" for years through her GlamOrama Productions, intent on "desegregating" entertainment.
Lucky 13 audiences, ranging from 100 to 400, are supposed to bring their own seats - lawn chairs, couches, inflatable mattresses. She has seen an entire living room suite reassembled on the parking lot. For an anniversary celebration, one couple brought a candelabrum and a dinner spread.
Buchanan also expects the crowd to participate and interact, becoming part of the entertainment. She wants more people to dress up in costumes paired with each movie. For Mamma Mia!, she encourages people to don their best disco costumes as they sing along to the subtitles.
For the July 19 double feature - Double Indemnity with Barbara Stanwyck and In This Our Life with Bette Davis - she wants to see costumes that scream "best evil film siren." She'll also officiate a wedding at the outdoor cinema that night.
In previous years, audience members of all ages wore outrageous costumes to Horton Hears a Who. For Little Miss Sunshine, they all had to push a Volkswagen Beetle out of the way before watching the movie.
Gone With the Wind was "outrageous," with eight rolling racks draped with curtain fabric. In Project Runway fashion, teams ran to grab fabric and then furiously created and stitched ball gowns from the material.
"It's the unexpected that makes it lovely," she says. "It's a vortex of spontaneity."
Though Buchanan started the series, continuity and an "ensemble cast" have been essential to its success and its survival. "It's hard work," she says, but a labor of love.
For tonight's Journey to the Center of the Earth, she took the time to put 3-D stickers on 400 pairs of glasses.
Lucky 13 movies are "almost free," at $3 for adults and $1 for children. Prizes - for which Buchanan scours garage sales and thrift shops - are given away each week. Main Stage Creative Community Center provides concessions as a fundraiser.
Sept. 6, the date of this summer's final screening, will also bring the debut of The Artery, the downtown art project of large panels that create a mural along the parking lots. The curated show, with the theme "Seasons," will involve more than 30 artists.
After marrying artist James Yale last year, Buchanan spends her weekdays in Avoca and her weekends in Eureka Springs. She has enjoyed watching children in Eureka Springs grow up with the outdoor movies. This summer, she plans to have a youngster serve as guest master of ceremonies each week.
She thinks it's important for youngsters to see adults being true to their vision, listening to their creative spark and acting silly.