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December 24, 2007

CW's Kimball Theatre celebrates 75th anniversary in 2008

The Williamsburg Theatre, the Kimball Theatre since 2001, turns 75 this winter! A film festival Feb. 14-17 celebrates the milestone anniversary. “When the Movies Come to Town! 75 Years at the Williamsburg/Kimball Theatre – A Festival of Movie History” is co-sponsored by the Kimball Theatre, the College of William and Mary Film Studies Program and the Reves Center at William and Mary. This festival showcases a wide selection of films that played on the theater’s main screen over the decades. With receptions and live performances, talks by renowned scholars and presentations of images and voices from Williamsburg’s past, “When the Movies Come to Town!” provides an occasion to reflect on what the movies mean and have meant for our community.

On Jan. 13, 1933, the Williamsburg Theatre celebrated its grand opening with a gala première worthy of Hollywood, complete with fireworks, multi-million candlepower spotlights and even an air show. It was one of the first air-conditioned buildings in town and for decades was Williamsburg’s only first-run movie house. With the rise of movie megaplexes in the 1990s, the single-screen Williamsburg Theatre adjusted its programming to focus on art-house, foreign and independent cinema, as well as late-night screenings of cult classics like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

In 2000 the theatre temporarily closed for a multi-million dollar renovation made possible through the generosity of Bill and Gretchen Kimball. Rechristened the Kimball Theatre, the building was restored to its 1930s splendor, with the addition of a stage to accommodate live entertainment. Since its re-opening in September 2001, the Kimball has played host to a wide assortment of concerts, plays and variety performances while continuing to showcase the latest and greatest in foreign and independent film.

Current theater manager Clay Riley had a hand in planning the Williamsburg Theatre’s 50th anniversary celebration in 1983, and like the Theatre’s Golden Anniversary, this year’s film festival will feature some of the great Hollywood classics that have graced the theater’s silver screen through the years.

"I’m amazed that 25 years later, I’m helping to plan yet another series of screenings of the films that played here over the decades,” Riley said.

The College of William and Mary has been working closely with Riley to plan the event, providing guest speakers and even some vintage promotional art for many of the featured films. “I can’t thank the college enough,” Riley said. “They’ve been instrumental in planning this latest film festival, and the students’ and faculty’s patronage and support during the past several decades have been vital to keeping the theater going.”
“When the Movies Come to Town! 75 Years at the Williamsburg/Kimball Theatre – A Festival of Movie History” begins Thursday, Feb. 14 and wraps up on Sunday, Feb. 17. All screenings at the Kimball Theatre are free, but tickets are required.

Movies include:

Thursday, Feb. 14

  • Valentine’s Day Special Event - Romance from Rome to Hollywood to Williamsburg. 6 – 6:45 p.m.: A Rome-antic, Saint Valentine’s Day Opening Reception. 6:45 – 7:30 p.m.: A demonstration of dance by College of William and Mary dance clubs, clips from classic Hollywood musicals and a few words on dating and the movies in Williamsburg. 7:30 p.m.: “Roman Holiday” (1953), introduced by Anita Angelone, William and Mary professor of modern languages and literature (Italian).

    Friday, Feb. 15

  • John Wayne in Williamsburg. 2:30–3 p.m.: Presentation on John Wayne’s film career, local popularity and visits to town (with a focus on our local veterans). 3 p.m.: “The Shootist” (1976).
  • King Kong Takes Merchants Square! 5 – 6 p.m.: Reception. 6 – 6:30 p.m.: Welcoming remarks by Arthur Knight, director of film studies, College of William and Mary. 6:30 p.m.: “King Kong” (1933), introduced by Professor Cynthia Erb, Wayne State University, author of “Tracking King Kong: A Hollywood Icon in World Culture.”
  • Forget the Movie! Start the Show! 10:30 p.m.: “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” with student-organized onstage show, audience participation (please NO PROPS, NO BACK PACKS, we don’t want to damage our beautiful theater), and reflections on “Rocky Horror’s” local history.

    Saturday, Feb. 16

  • Kids at the Movies and in the Movies - 10:30–11:30 a.m.: Short films from the Little Rascals, Looney Tunes, Three Stooges and excerpts from Shirley Temple, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films. Fun for kids of all ages! 11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.: Reflections on Shirley Temple and American Kids’ Culture by Professor John Kasson, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, author of “The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression.”
    Race Relations in and at the Movies - 2:30–3:30 p.m.: Presentations on African American movie-going in Williamsburg led by Professor Arthur Knight, College of William and Mary, author of “Disintegrating the Musical: Black Performance and American Musical Film.” 3:30 p.m.: “In the Heat of the Night” (1967). The Southern, American Epic 6:30 p.m.: “Gone With the Wind” (1939), introduced by Professor Robert C. Allen, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, author of “Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture.”

    Sunday. Feb. 17

  • Immigrants, Gangsters and Art Film - 1:30 p.m.: “The Godfather” (1972), introduced by Anita Angelone, William and Mary professor of modern languages and literature. 7 p.m.: “Blowup” (1966) Location to be announced.

    The Kimball Theatre, located in downtown Williamsburg’s Merchants Square, is owned and operated by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the not-for-profit educational institution that operates the restored 18th-century capital of Virginia. The Kimball Theatre box office is open 1-9:15 p.m. For more information, contact the Kimball Theatre Box office at (757) 565-8588 or visit

    Media Contact:
    Penna Rogers
    (757) 220-7121

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