For its inaugural edition, Art House Theater Day—a celebration of independently owned movie theaters created in the wake of Record Store Day’s massive success—leaned in to the weird side of indie filmmaking with a special presentation of Phantasm restored in 4k. This year, the event is taking a more traditional approach to the term “art house,” presenting independent dramas and documentaries from around the world alongside restored versions of films by legendary filmmakers Powell and Pressburger and Frederick Wiseman.
Leading the lineup is a special presentation of Lucky, the directorial debut of beloved character actor John Carroll Lynch. The film stars another of the all-time great character actors, Harry Dean Stanton, in what turned out to be his final role. Co-starring David Lynch and Tom Skerritt, Lucky describes itself as “the spiritual journey of a 90-year-old atheist” (Stanton) as he interacts with the quirky characters who live in his small desert hometown.
Leading this year’s documentary slate is a restored 4k version of Titicut Follies (1967), Frederick Wiseman’s groundbreaking work of cinema verite exposing the appalling conditions at Massachusetts’ Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. As Roger Ebert noted in his 1968 review for the film, authorities in Massachusetts suppressed Wiseman’s film, arguing it violated the privacy of patients depicted living in squalor and darkness. “It is hard to imagine more humiliating and pathetic scenes, and perhaps they should not be shown for profit or offered to the public,” Ebert writes. “But perhaps they should, even though Titicut Follies will dismay and disgust many of those who see it.” The film was banned for many years, and only became available to the public in 1991, after a judge ruled the patients’ right to privacy no longer superseded Wiseman’s First Amendment rights.
Also on the docket for this year’s Art House Theater Day are The Road Movie, a Russian documentary comprised entirely from dashboard-cam footage that’s at turns meditative and totally off-the-wall bonkers; Martha & Nicki, another documentary following two Swedish girls of African descent hoping to making it in the world of street dancing; four shorts from the New York Times’ Op-Docs series; and a brand-new 4k restoration of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s romantic fantasy A Matter Of Life And Death (a.k.a. Stairway To Heaven) (1946) introduced by Powell’s widow, Oscar-winning film editor Thelma Schoonmaker.
Art House Theater Day will take place tomorrow, Sunday, September 24, at more than 150 independently owned movie theaters across the U.S. You can find a participating theater near you on the Art House Theater Day website.