The 14th annual Woodstock Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday, Oct. 2 and continues through Sunday, Oct. 6 with over 125 events planned for venues in Kingston, Rhinebeck, Rosendale, Woodstock and—for the first time ever—Saugerties, with nine film screenings slated for the Orpheum Theatre on Main St. and several after-screening receptions around the village. Saugerties’ monthly First Friday festivities on Oct. 4 will also fall within the time frame of the festival, so it looks like it’s going to be a pretty eventful week around here.
All of the films shown in Saugerties will be screened at the Orpheum Theatre at 156 Main St. in the village. The Orpheum, built in 1890, has seen its share of changing times—originally a vaudeville house, hosting talents like Cary Grant, George Burns and Gracie Allen on its stage, it became exclusively a movie cinema with the demise of vaudeville by the 1930s. A few decades after that, the Orpheum Theatre adapted again to changing times by converting into a tri-plex cinema, and now that the 21st century has brought an end to movies made on film—by 2014 all movies distributed in this country will be produced digitally—the Orpheum rose to the occasion again in 2012 by converting to an all-digital format (and reserving one theater for crowd-drawing 3-D films).
The conversion from 35mm film to digital has been an expensive one for theater owners like the Orpheum’s Tom Thornton, involving an investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars for new equipment in order to keep the theater open. The silver lining in the story is for the community, who not only get to continue viewing films in a real neighborhood theater, but can now experience an event like the Woodstock Film Festival there.
Turns out, the reason it took so long for Saugerties to be invited to the party—this is the 14th year the festival has been held, after all—is in large part due to the digital revolution: before now, Saugerties didn’t have a theater equipped to show the digital and DVD releases made by independent low-budget filmmakers like those whose work is shown in festivals.
Brigid Walsh, former chair of the Saugerties Area Chamber of Commerce, says that the idea to include Saugerties in the film festival has been discussed for years. She brought up the idea herself at a Chamber meeting years ago, she says, adding that festival co-founder Meira Blaustein had voiced interest in including Saugerties all along. But various obstacles were always cited, says Walsh, until this year when she and Blaustein met with village Mayor William Murphy to revive the idea. “He connected us with the owner of the Orpheum [Thornton] and within one meeting we had it all worked out,” Walsh says. Thornton told them to coordinate it all with theater manager Peter Lawrence, who worked out the logistics from the theater’s perspective (they have contracts with film companies that require them to run films on a certain schedule, says Walsh).
Now with technical obstacles eliminated and the ironing out of organizational details, Saugerties is in, and can even boast the first sold-out show of the 2013 festival: the Saturday, Oct. 5 screening at the Orpheum of Saugerties-based filmmaker David Becker’s “To Be Forever Wild.” (As of press time, tickets are still available to see the film at the Woodstock Playhouse on Thursday, Oct. 3, and the public is still invited to join cast and crew from the film at an after-screening reception Saturday, Oct. 5 in Saugerties at Lucky Chocolates, 115 Partition St.)
Filmmaker David Becker moved from Brooklyn to Saugerties about five years ago, he says. He’d decided to move to the Woodstock area after coming up to the region to go to previous incarnations of the Woodstock Film Festival, and was “thrilled,” he says, to find Saugerties and find out “what a great town it is.” He lives in the village now, and teaches media arts part time at Woodstock Day School while finishing up “To Be Forever Wild” and planning the next film.