Ready for their close-up: Pothole Pictures announces a season of curated film screenings, live music and $1 popcorn

The second floor of Memorial Hall in Shelburne Falls has been home to Pothole Pictures since 1995. Film screenings begin at 7:30 p.m., with a half-hour of live music at 7 p.m. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for children ages 12 and younger.

The second floor of Memorial Hall in Shelburne Falls has been home to Pothole Pictures since 1995. Film screenings begin at 7:30 p.m., with a half-hour of live music at 7 p.m. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for children ages 12 and younger. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Pothole Pictures shows movies in Memorial Hall in Shelburne Falls. The building’s history goes back to the 19th century when In 1897, the Ozro Miller Post of the Grand Army of the Republic offered to give the land to the town for a Memorial Hall, provided the Post was given space in it for meetings, along with housing for veterans and the use of a theater for special events. 

Pothole Pictures shows movies in Memorial Hall in Shelburne Falls. The building’s history goes back to the 19th century when In 1897, the Ozro Miller Post of the Grand Army of the Republic offered to give the land to the town for a Memorial Hall, provided the Post was given space in it for meetings, along with housing for veterans and the use of a theater for special events.  RECORDER FILE PHOTO

Scenes from the feature-length oil-painted, animated film, “Loving Vincent,” which screens at Pothole Pictures on June 14 and 15.

Scenes from the feature-length oil-painted, animated film, “Loving Vincent,” which screens at Pothole Pictures on June 14 and 15. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/GOOD DEED ENTERTAINMENT

By DIANE BRONCACCIO

For The Recorder

Published: 04-12-2024 10:58 AM

Modified: 04-12-2024 7:35 PM


It’s showtime again for Pothole Pictures, a community-based movie series that showcases classic movies, live local music, occasional interviews with relevant film-makers, and sells popcorn that’s still only $1.

Named for Shelburne Falls’s Glacial Potholes, Pothole Pictures began running Friday and Saturday night movies in 1995, in the upstairs Memorial Hall theater, at 51 Bridge St. The theater went dark from 2020 through 2022, during COVID and when the elevator needed an overhaul. But the theater is back with films, live music and special movie discussions this spring and summer.

“Every film we show is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to see great films on a big screen in a historic theater,” says Jim Kessler, Pothole Pictures coordinator and president of the Memorial Hall Association. “But these special-event movies are unique community events you cannot replicate at home or on your phone.”

In 1897, the Ozro Miller Post of the Grand Army of the Republic offered to give the land to the town for a Memorial Hall, provided the Post was given space in it for meetings, along with housing for veterans and the use of a theater for special events. The first opera was performed there in 1898.

In 1928, the Memorial Hall was almost destroyed by fire, but it was rebuilt.

By the 1960s, the upstairs theater was no longer used and it remained dark for the next 30 years. But in 1995, Pothole Pictures was founded — with a used movie screen bought by co-founder Andrew Baker and 1927-vintage carbon-arc projectors operated by the late projectionist Bernie Butler.

The upper floor was intended to serve as an “opera house,” and opera came back to Memorial Hall big-time, when the theater started telecasting high-definition, live performance transmissions of the New York Metropolitan Opera in 2009. The Memorial Hall Association worked for a year to make the opera broadcasts possible, raising $6,000 for satellite dishes needed for the telecasts.

In 2012 and 2013, Hollywood filmmakers came to Shelburne Falls to make “Labor Day,” starring Kate Winslet and, a year later, “The Judge,” starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall.

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Memorial Hall itself had a cameo role in “The Judge.” And when the films were released, local audiences, who had crowded the streets to watch the film being made, came to Memorial Hall to see the finished films.

This season

Here’s a look at what’s running through July. All shows begin at 7:30 p.m., with a half-hour of live music at 7 p.m. Tickets are $6 adults, and $4 for children ages 12 and younger.

April 19 and 20: “Holiday” (1938) is a comedy-romance starring Cary Grant and Kathryn Hepburn. Music Friday night is ‘90s cover music with The Cheese Priests, and Saturday night, it’s the Franklin County Two-Steppers.

May 3 and 4: “The Thin Blue Line” (1988) is a documentary about a man falsely accused of murdering a police officer. One night in 1976, Randall Dale Adams’s car broke down near Dallas, and he accepted a ride from a teenager who happened to be driving a stolen car. When an officer pulled the car over, he was shot and killed. A jury believes Adams is the killer, but Errol Morris’s documentary explores the role of perjured testimony and misleading witness accounts.

Independent filmmaker John MacGibbon will discuss the film and answer questions. Music Friday night will be solo sitar ragas; Saturday night’s music is by The Uncles.

May 31 and June 1: “Late Spring” (1949) is Yasurjiro Ozu’s black-and-white drama about a family’s perspectives on marriage, sacrifice and on aging in post-World War II Japan.

Kathe Geist, author of “Ozu: A Closer Look,” will speak about the film. Slow Pony performs Friday and Ashley Kramer plays music Saturday.

June 14 and 15: “Loving Vincent” (2017) is a ground-breaking feature film that looks at van Gogh’s life through 65,000 animated oil paintings, based on the artist’s own self-portraits, landscapes and street scenes. It took seven years to make, with 125 artists producing the paintings that replicate scenes from van Gogh’s most famous works — with an assist from a former Deerfield resident, film producer Nikki Stier Justice.

Vincent van Gogh’s life story is perhaps best told in the 2,000 artworks he left behind before dying at age 37, plagued by mental illness and poverty; this film uses van Gogh’s work as the setting for many scenes.

Justice will talk about the film’s unusual construction in an after-film Q&A.

Music Friday night will be troubadour Dave Dersham and on Saturday, the folk duo Leatherleaf.

June 28 and 29: “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” (1987) is a comedy holiday road trip with Steve Martin and John Candy.

Over Easy Jazz plays Friday night, Sam Berquist plays solo acoustic music Saturday.

July 12 and 13: “Festival Express” (2003) is a concert tour British documentary about a 1970 train tour across Canada taken by Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Buddy Guy and other major music performers. The film combines concert footage with recollections of the tour by its participants. Friday’s music features Dominic Kutylowski with Americana, folk and country. The Farley String Band plays Saturday – old time fiddle, waltzes and jigs.

July 26 and 27: “Travels with my Aunt” (1972) — Henry meets his Aunt Augusta (played by Maggie Smith) at his mother’s funeral, and the adventure begins. Friday’s music is classical oboe duets from Jeze; Saturday Dick Moulding plays classical piano songs.

Renovation plans

The elevator overhaul was just the first part of a three-phase renovation plan, according to Andrew Baker. The next step is to finish raising grant-matching funds for a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant of $187,000 to pay for phase two of the renovation. This will include repairing the floor and replacing the auditorium’s 400 century-old seats.

“Phase three will be everything else — stage, curtain, lighting, sound, HVAC, historic finishes,” said Baker. “We have planned it as a three-year, $1.2 million capital campaign.”

The campaign will start off on Saturday, May 18, with a Gala Performance and Variety Show. More details about this program are to come later.