Will Gene Wilder's 'Blazing Saddles,' 'Willy Wonka' be at a theater near you?
Films starring Wilder will be screened at some AMC theaters on Sept. 3 and Sept. 4. In an age of acclaimed TV and Netflix, do moviegoers still want the communal experience of seeing a beloved film?
Both a world of pure imagination and a famous Western town will be up on the big screen this coming Labor Day weekend to honor recently deceased comic actor Gene Wilder.
The films “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and “Blazing Saddles,” both of which were released in the 1970s and star Mr. Wilder, will be screened at some AMC locations on Sept. 3 and Sept. 4. On both days, “Wonka” will play at 5 p.m. and “Saddles” will follow at 7:30, with tickets for $5.
The screening times presumably reflect the films’ subject matter, as “Wonka” is a G-rated movie based on a children’s book by Roald Dahl and “Saddles” is an R-rated comedy.
Here's the full list of theaters where the films will appear this weekend.
“Wonka” and “Saddles” returning to theaters is the latest example of a theater chain bringing back well-known films after the death of someone involved with them. For example, after the death of musician Prince this spring, Prince’s film “Purple Rain” was screened at some AMC theaters.
Bringing these movies back could signal theater owners attempting to create a communal experience, screening films that are already well-known and beloved to moviegoers, in a society with endless other options for entertainment – including many solitary ones.
Streaming services like Netflix make it easy to watch films at home, for example, while current TV programming includes some shows acclaimed as the best ever made, including “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” and “Game of Thrones.”
In order to continue to attract moviegoers, some movie theaters attempt to transform the moviegoing experience, with the Showcase Superlux program, for example, offering food options that can be brought to moviegoers at their seats. Some drive-in theaters still exist in the US as well, and the "retro" experience may even be on the rebound, CBS News noted in 2012. At drive-in theaters, moviegoers could be drawn in by the novel experience, as with food being served inside a theater.
And older movies can draw audiences when they add elements like live music. Variety writer Gordon Cox noted in 2015 that “live movie concerts [have] become an increasingly regular (and increasingly profitable) piece of programming around the country.”
And as for older movies being brought back to theaters, as with “Wonka” and “Saddles,” a portion of the population will still leave the house to see a favorite movie on the big screen, John Healey, the director of the Weinberg Center for the Arts in Frederick, Md., told the Maryland newspaper the Carroll County Times in 2014.
Mr. Healey says he sees viewers of various ages at screenings of, for example, silent movies at the Weinberg Center for the Arts.
"It's just an amazing thing that we're seeing parents bringing their children to these films, which some see as a dying art," Healey said. "They're looking at this as something they've never seen before."
"We have become so isolated sitting in our living rooms, that sometimes the experience of seeing it with a live audience has become part of the overall experience," he added. "It's fun to be sitting in a theater with 200 to 300 people laughing together or who are totally mesmerized. I think that's all part of the joy of the film experience."