ORLANDO – Talk about a sharp contrast – and a genuine holiday entertainment contrast.
One movie, made in 1946 in black and white, which has been a holiday classic for decades, and is easy to find on television every December, starring one of Hollywood most beloved actors.
The second film, released in 1990 in color, with a child actor on the rise who outflanked his well known adult colleagues on the screen, and which also plays on television as Christmas approaches.
Area residents have an opportunity on Saturday to see them both, now that “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart and “Home Alone 2” with Macaulay Culkin will be playing locally for audiences eager to get away from their TV set and catch it on a larger screen.
The showing of “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Enzian Theatre, as part of its Saturday Matinee Classics on Dec. 10 at noon, should be particularly exciting, said Matt Curtis, the program director for the theater in Maitland, since they’re showing an actual 35mm print of the 1946 Frank Capra classic.
“I can’t wait to see it in 35mm,” Curtis said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen the film in a 35mm print. This should be something special.”
When “It’s a Wonderful Life” was first released in 1946, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, but did not turn a profit on its initial release. It was only years later that it became a cult film, and eventually a tradition on television around the holidays. The story of George Bailey and his life in Bedford Falls is so familiar on the small screen this time of year, Curtis said, that for a while he held off booking it at the Enzian. The City of Winter Park and Enzian collaborate to produce a cinema series called Popcorn Flicks, which feature classic films for the whole family.
“I’ve held off playing it as a Popcorn Flick all these years because it’s always on TV at this time,” Curtis said. “It’s always on every December on TV, and I’ve chosen not to program it as a Popcorn Flick, but then I heard that we could be doing it as a 35mm print. It’s ironic this film has never played on 35mm in the Enzian Theatre. That’s how we decided to do it. It was kind of the perfect film for that. We’re excited.”
The 129 minute movie is the story of an angel who helps a local businessman understand what life would have been like if he had never existed. It remains a sentimental favorite of millions, and a real tearjerker because of the uplifting ending.
“The film doesn’t seem to get old at all,” Curtis said. “It’s passed down through the generations. It’s a Frank Capra classic, and everyone identifies with the Jimmy Stewart character in the film.”
Word has gotten out about this showing, he said, and online bookings have been solid.
“It’s kind of ironic, because advance sales have been really good,” he said, even though the movie is easy to find on TV this month.
“But you have to deal with 50 minutes of commercials,” Curtis added. “I think people are excited about this. People know it’s a 35mm print.”
“Home Alone,” on the other hand, is a very different kind of holiday movie: a slapstick comedy about an 8-year-old boy who is accidentally left behind while his family flies to France for Christmas. When two burglars break into the home, the boy, played by Culkin, has to come up with some clever ways to defend himself. The sequel, “Home Alone 2,” is playing on Saturday as a Holiday Film Festival showing at 7 p.m. at the University of Central Florida arena, as part of the ongoing Light Up UCF celebration of free holiday movies and light shows.
Curtis said this movie seems to have less to do with the holidays than “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and it’s appeal probably owes more to its cartoon-like slapstick.
“ ‘Home Alone’ is funny, it’s got slapstick, and it’s set at Christmas time,” he said. “Although ‘Home Alone’ could have succeeded if they had set it at a different time of year. We’ve shown ‘Home Alone’ as a Popcorn Flick before, and this year there was a distinct possibility we’d do it last Friday as our annual holiday Popcorn Flick, but we decided to do ‘A Christmas Story’ instead, which has become an ever bigger classic. ‘A Christmas Story’ only gets shown at Christmas time, but with ‘Home Alone,’ you can show it anytime.”
In addition to “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the Enzian will be showing “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” as its Wednesday Night Pitcher Show at 8 p.m. on Dec. 21. This is a free outdoor event held on the front lawn, open to the public, with the movie shown on Blue-Ray disc.
The Enzian is at 1300 S. Orlando Ave. in Maitland. To learn more, call 407-629-0054 or book tickets — which cost $8 — online by logging on to Enzian Theatre. To learn more about the “Home Alone 2” showing, call 407-823-6006 or log on to Light Up UCF.
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