Classic movie nights returning to Clayton Theatre

Next Monday, Dagsboro’s Clayton Theatre will resume its Clayton Classics, showing classic films on Monday nights at 7 p.m. for a mere $4, as well as a new matinee offering mid-week.

Coastal Point • Submitted: An undated black-and-white photo of the Clayton Theatre.Coastal Point • Submitted: An undated black-and-white photo of the Clayton Theatre.“Citizen Kane,” directed by and starring Orson Wells and the winner of an Oscar for its screenplay, will be shown on Sept. 9 at 7 p.m., as well as on Sept. 11 at 2:30 p.m.

“‘Citizen Kane’ is regarded as the greatest film of all time,” said Joanne Howe, who owns the theater. “The American Film Institute gave it that honor a few years back, and people truly love that film, so I thought it would be a great way to kick off the series for the fall.”

Howe started the classic film series at the beginning of the year, following the announcement by many large movie companies that they would no longer be offering film prints and would be changing over to only digital media by the end of 2013, as a way to offset the cost of converting the historic theater to a digital projection system.

Earlier this year, Howe estimated that the theater would need to raise between $80,000 and $100,000 to make the conversion from its original 35mm MotioGraph projectors installed when it was built in 1949, plus the cost of a new screen they may have to install to work with the new digital projector.

“We’ve raised about $40,000 so far. The good news is there is a new projection system that came out earlier this year for smaller theaters our size,” she noted. “We’ve been waiting for it to get tested, see how people like the system. It’s more compact that the other system, and less expensive. Right now I’m in the process of getting quotes for the installation of that system. So we might even be closer to our goal than we think — which is really exciting.”

Since the announcement that the theater might be forced to close if the money for the digital conversion couldn’t be found, the local community has jumped into action, attending Clayton Classics, donating money and offering to help in any way they could.

“I have great hope that we’re going to be able to reach the goal and, hopefully, get a system in before the end of the year. I’m feeling very positive about it. I’ve had other people contact me about possibly doing group events at the theater, which is great. Anything we can do now to push toward that final goal is really exciting, and I really feel good about it,” Howe said.

While bringing back the Monday-night classics for the fall, Howe also decided to offer a matinee of each classic movie the following Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., for those who might want to take in a showing during daylight hours.

“We have a lot of people who don’t like to drive in the evening, so we thought it would be a good opportunity for groups in the community who might like to come out and make an afternoon of it.”

On Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. and Sept. 18 at 2:30 p.m., the Clayton will show “North by Northwest,” directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Cary Grant. On Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. and Sept. 25 at 2:30 p.m. “Mrs. Minirver,” starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, will be shown at the theater. On Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 2 at 2:30 p.m., the theater will present “Zulu.”

“It’s Michale Caine’s first starring role in a movie, and it happened to be my husband’s favorite film,” shared Howe. “It’s a true story, and I think people will find it really interesting. It’s a great movie.”

In October, Howe hopes to show a number of horror films; however, the dates for the movies have yet to be confirmed.

“October, we have a lineup of classic horror films,” she explained. “It is the month of Halloween, and we’ve had several people over the course of the Clayton Classics that have come up to us who have spoken about ‘The Blob.’ Some of the films we’re looking to get are ‘The Fly,’ with Vincent Price, ‘The Blob’ and Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho.’

“I also wanted to do something that’s light and fun, and many people have requested an Abbott and Costello film. So we’re also going to do ‘Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein,’” she noted.

“It’s a classic comedy and it has all the classic horror film figures in it — Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolfman. All the people who played those roles in the movies reprise those roles for cameos for a brief moment in this film. It’s a great movie the whole family can enjoy.”

Howe said she hopes to continue the series through the holiday season, showing classic holiday films, and on.

“I’m hoping to continue this right through winter, because people seem to enjoy it. It’s becoming Monday-night date-night, everybody tells me. We see a lot of the same faces, and they enjoy coming and seeing their friends and people they recognize each week. It’s becoming a group. It’s just fun to see everyone come back each week.”

Along with the return of the Clayton Classics, the Clayton will have a booth at the Bethany Beach Arts Festival on Saturday, Sept. 7, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., selling T-shirts at $20 for adults and $15 for youth sizes.

“They were designed by Bethany Beach Printing. They have been so great about helping us with the T-shirts, and we’ve done really well with them,” said Howe. “They have the Clayton Theatre logo on front, with an artist’s rendering of the theater with a plane flying over top, with a banner saying, ‘Save the Clayton.’”

They will also be accepting preorders copies of Sandie Hancock Gerken’s new book, “Memories of The Clayton Theatre: A Look Back,” which will be available for $20 beginning on Friday, Sept. 20, at the theater.

“Sandie Gerken, who is the daughter of one of the original owners, has written a book about the history of the Clayton. She’s gone out to the community and gotten them to share some of their memories of the Clayton. She and her sisters and her cousins have also put their memories together. So we have this book that we’re going to be putting out,” Howe said. “We’re so excited, and we already have some preorders.”

Also at the Boardwalk Arts Festival booth, people can purchase advance tickets for a Sept. 22 performance at the theater by Skinny Leg Pete, with tickets costing $15 in advance or $20 at the door.

“We’re having a show band at the theater again. Skinny Leg Pete will be here, and they play classic oldies, rock-n-roll, blues, funk, and just a little bit of everything. I think it’s going to be a fun night at the theater,” said Howe.

“Sky Brady is the singer for Skinny Leg Pete. He’s a local DJ who does a lot of great work around the area. He does charity work and has been a really good friend of the Clayton Theatre,” she noted. “He’s always supported us, and asked if he could do something to help out. He’s such a good guy and has worked really hard in the community.”

Howe added that she is in the process of setting up the Clayton’s website to sell T-shirts and Gerken’s book, as well as tickets to special shows, such as the Skinny Leg Pete performance.

The Clayton is the last single-screen theater in Delaware that is still being operated as a movie theater, and Howe said she hopes to keep it around for years to come, thanks to the community’s help.

“It’s heartwarming,” said Howe. “I was thinking about it the other day. You see movies about small towns that come together and help save something in the town. It is what has happened here in Dagsboro and the surrounding areas. The people have just been so generous. They are really involved in making this happen, and it’s just fun to be a part of it. I know that we can do this — we can save this little theater and keep it going for more generations.”

The Clayton Theatre is located at 900 Main Street in Dagsboro. For more information or to donate, call (302) 732-3744 or visit or
ton-Theatre. Tickets for the Clayton Classics cost $4 per person, with the doors opening 45 minutes before show time.