Good Life

Local film fans prepare for the Oscars

The 89th Academy Awards will air on Sunday on ABC.
The 89th Academy Awards will air on Sunday on ABC. Associated Press, file

It might surprise you to learn that Hungarian films are not typically the lifeblood of The State Theatre.

That’s not a value judgment, by the way — just cold, hard reality. The top earners for the downtown State College arts venue have traditionally been outdoor adventure pictures, extreme sportsmen doing extreme things all in the name of, you know, being extreme.

Auteur or not, it’s tough to beat a guy riding a motorcycle over the edge of a cliff when it comes to sheer entertainment value.

Nevertheless, Feb. 18 found patrons young and old packing into the West College Avenue theater for a hearty helping of subtitles, the second of a three-night program featuring this year’s Oscar-nominated short films in the animation, live action and documentary categories.

“You’re getting exposure to a wider variety of styles of filmmaking than you normally would,” said Greg Ray, executive director of The State Theatre.

Attendance-wise, that kind of exposure ranks somewhere in between the theater’s weekly Monday night movies and a dude repelling down the side of a mountain — which, according to Ray, is pretty good.

It’s not hard to fathom the appeal for the executive director or the theater. The Oscars are a brand, one that implies a certain level of quality and prestige and the synergy with Sunday evening’s ceremony doesn’t hurt either.

Audiences who might have been able to catch feature-length nominees like “Arrival” or “Manchester by the Sea” at the local multiplex may have previously been inclined to use the short film portion of the broadcast to make a bathroom run.

The added investment is good for art, bad for the bladder. Failing that, there’s also something to be said for the merits of a shared global experience.

“When you’re watching (the films) you do get the sense that people all over the world are consuming this,” Ray said.

Yes, that includes Hungary — but also Philipsburg.

At the Rowland Theatre, board member Rebecca Inlow had to put a little extra elbow grease behind locking down critical darling “La La Land” for a two-week run.

“Initially the guy from Lionsgate told us we couldn’t get it until after the Oscars,” Inlow said.

She sealed the deal by mentioning some of the Academy Award-related activities that the Rowland had planned leading up to the big night — ballots, trivia, prizes — and trading on the occasion’s not-quite-a-holiday spirit.

It’s paid off. The buzzy “La La Land’s” gravitational pull has helped put some fresh butts in the seats of the single screen movie palace.

“I think that once (audiences) hear about (the films), they’re more inclined to go see them,” Inlow said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

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