Festival brings classic films to the Classic Center

            Athens will get an economic stimulus of its own when the Robert Osborne Classic Film Festival comes to the Classic Center this weekend.

            The festival, celebrating its fifth anniversary, starts today and will last until Sunday.

            It has grown from its inception in 2004, when Singin’ in the Rain was the lone film to be screened.  The official festival began a year later and featured eight movies over four days, and kept that format from then on.

            Osborne is the primetime host for the Turner Classic Movies network and has been since it was created in 1994.  He is experienced both in journalism and in acting; he was in the pilot episode of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” among other things. His other titles include being a columnist for the Hollywood Reporter and the historian for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, according to his Web site at robertosborne.com. 

            Osborne’s expertise draws many to his festival.  In a February interview with the Athens Banner-Herald, festival director Pamela Kohn called the fifth anniversary “a big milestone.”

            “It…says to people that ‘We’re totally stable and we’re here to stay,’” she said.

            Kohn also said that the festival will be eligible for grants now from places like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences that only give grants to festivals going into their sixth year.

            The grant writers encourage submission of proposals that “make festival events more accessible to the general public, provide greater access to minority and less visible filmmakers, and help strengthen the connection between the filmmaker and the public,” according to the Academy’s Web site at http://www.oscars.org.

            The Classic Center, which has a 3,000-person meeting capacity and a theatre that seats 2,000, was renovated in the same year the full-fledged version of the festival began.  Since then, the venue has brought events to town that range from business conferences to concerts.  The city has benefited tremendously from these events, with patrons taking advantage of downtown restaurants and lodging.

            Much of the festival’s audience will be local, as there is a large appeal to the University of Georgia community.  Tickets and packages have a 25 percent discount for students and members of the UGA alumni association.

            The festival’s ties with the University are further-reaching than that, however.  It is being put on in conjunction with the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.  The executive producer, Nate Kohn, is a Grady professor of telecommunications, and the UGA division of external affairs also works to put on the event.

            What makes this film festival different from others? The keyword is “classic.”

            The films featured all “represent the breadth and variety of classic cinema from the 1930’s to the 2000’s,” said Osborne in a Grady College press release.

            “There is nothing quite like seeing a film as it was meant to be seen—on a mammoth screen, in a communal experience,” he explained in a written introduction to last year’s festival.  “That’s something very rare for any older movie these days.”

            The renovated Classic Center certainly lends to that goal.  The eight movies are shown on a 64-foot screen with state-of-the-art projector and sound systems, according to Grady.  Many movies will be shown with “pristine” 35mm archived film from major studios.


            This year, Athens advertising company Sliced Bread is responsible for advertising, promotions and design for the event.  Many other local Athens businesses such as Farm 255, Bel-Jean Copy and Print, and Athens First Bank and Trust are sponsors.

            In addition to film screenings, the festival will feature a panel discussion with Osborne, along with actors and other experts in the industry.

            The festival begins tonight with Goldfinger at 8:30 p.m. The panel discussion is free to the public and will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, followed by a free screening of Rear Window at 4:30 p.m.  The festival wraps up with a showing of E.T. on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.  Tickets for all movies other than Rear Window are $10 for the general public and $8 for UGA students and alumni association members, and in honor of the fifth anniversary, children’s tickets for E.T. are $5.


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