In the days before VHS — which were in the days before DVDs, which were before Blu-rays, which were before streaming — your only hope for re-watching a movie that you loved was when it made its TV debut, or the studios would re-release them on the big screen (oftentimes as part of some pretty bizarre double features — The Odd Couple paired with Rosemary’s Baby immediately comes to mind). Unfortunately, all of those technologies listed above more or less did away with the idea of re-releases, although for a number of years, Fathom Events has been doing something about it.
Screening over the course of one or two nights are select movies oftentimes celebrating anniversaries. The past few years have seen screenings like The Sound of Music, Jaws, Labyrinth, Casablanca, The Dark Crystal, Dirty Dancing, Grease, Singin’ in the Rain, and The Princess Bride. But that’s really only the beginning, with the original Die Hard (its 30th Anniversary) hitting select screens on Nov. 11 and Nov. 14, the animated Batman: Mask of the Phantasm celebrating 25 years on Nov. 12, Superman: The Movie — now 40! — on the Nov. 25 and Nov. 27, and Sleepless in Seattle hitting 25 with screenings on Dec. 2 and Dec. 5.
“I think the appeal is that we deliver a different experience than you’re going to get at home,” muses Tom Lucas, VP of Studio Relations in an exclusive interview. “In the past, the physical home entertainment market was thriving, and you could go to stores and walk down the aisle and find a lot of classic movies. But the retail environment has dramatically changed. You’ve had major retailers go out of business, and stores like Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and Target greatly reducing the amount of space they make available in their stores for classic movies. So the truth is, they’re not as readily available to just go out hunting for as they might have been at one time. And if you look at streaming services, they oftentimes don’t have these classic movies.
“So we have an opportunity to hunt through the libraries of the major studios,” he continues, “curate the most appealing and high-profile classic movies, and then work with the studios to bring them back and let people see them, in a communal environment, on the big screen. As you and I know, that is really a different experience than if we sit at home and watch a DVD by ourselves.”
The other aspect of these Fathom Events is that it’s not just the movies — which in themselves have been cleaned up and remastered to pristine condition, likely the best the audience has ever seen — but the overall experience itself.
“We create an event,” Tom states. “While we show the older movies, there’s always some added value, an extra piece, that comes with it. For example, if you go see Die Hard, you’re going to have a special introduction from a Turner Classic Movie on-air host, who will give you background on the movie. When you go see Superman: The Movie, it includes a 1941 Max Fleischer Superman animated short that Warner Bros has actually remastered and which hasn’t been seen on the big screen in probably 50 or 60 years. When we showed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, William Shatner did a Q&A with it. He’s amazing, sharp as a tack and has all kinds of incredible stories about the different people he’s worked with. Just great stuff.”
Fathom Events have included episodes of TV shows such as Doctor Who and Game of Thrones, performances from the Metropolitan Opera, Anime productions, and the Broadway musical Bandstand (screening Nov. 15 and 19). But for a lot of people, it’s the Classic Movies that remain the draw.
“The movies that we pick are diverse,” says Tom, “in that they come from all different time periods. Generally, we go from the 1930s to the 1990s. Some of the best performing titles that we’ve had come from all different decades. We had Singin’ in the Rain from the 1950s, Dirty Dancing from the ’80s, Wizard of Oz from the ’30s, Jaws from the ’70s, the Sound of Music from the ’60s. So it’s not time specific. It really is based on the quality of the title.”