See these Dryden movies before the curtain falls

05:00 AM, Dec 21, 2012

The Dryden will be closed Jan. 2 through March 1 for major renovations. (Provided by George Eastman House)/


These last days of 2012 offer several opportunities to celebrate a Rochester treasure — the Dryden Theatre at the George Eastman House. We celebrate because of what the theater has meant for those who love classic cinema and what it will mean after major renovations are completed.

The Dryden will go dark on Jan. 2 and will remain closed for two months, to allow for extensive renovations, such as new seats, new carpeting, new lighting, more legroom (yes!) and digital projection.

This great archival venue will reopen March 2, 2013, with an appearance by Oscar-winning director and writer Alexander Payne (The Descendants, About Schmidt, Election), who will present his 2009 wine comedy, Sideways.

Fittingly, Dryden programmer Lori Donnelly is marking the temporary closing with an affectionate selection of films, leading up to Cinema Paradiso, one of the greatest films ever made about the power and beauty of movies.

Cinema Paradiso screens at 8 p.m. on New Year’s Day.

In Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1990 film, a movie director recalls his childhood, when he fell in love with the movie theater in his small Italian fishing village and formed a bond with the theater’s projectionist, played by the great French actor Philippe Noiret.

The film offers several prized sequences for cinema fans, including the scene in which the village priest views a film that’s soon to be shown and rings a bell to censor out any kissing or other signs of romance. I also love the projection of a film on the broad side of a building, so it can be viewed by the fishermen in their boats in the harbor.

Adding to the film’s hefty emotional impact is one of Ennio Morricone’s most lyrical music scores.

Other much-loved films will lead up to the New Year’s Day finale, including two hilarious films by Mel Brooks — Silent Movie, a 1976 parody of the days of movies without sound, at 8 p.m. Friday; and Spaceballs, a 1987 parody of the Star Wars franchise, at 8 p.m. on Dec. 28.

For the holidays, there is, of course, Frank Capra’s 1946 classic It’s a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart (whom I saw receive the George Eastman Award in the Dryden Theatre in the 1970s). The Capra film is at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Goodbye, Dragon Inn, a famous 2004 Chinese film about a “last picture show” in a once-regal urban cinema, screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday. The film is considered a close cousin of Cinema Paradiso — and designed to trigger emotional responses from movie lovers.

Animation is also part of the magic of the movies, and the Dryden takes note with the clever and entertaining Who Framed Roger Rabbit? at 8 p.m. Dec. 29 and 2 p.m. Dec. 30. It’s one of the greatest films to combine live action with animation, and it also features a great performance from the late Bob Hoskins. Robert Zemeckis’ 1988 comedy is also a wonderful examination of the power and entertainment value of something as seemingly simple as a cartoon.

It’s also been a tradition for many to go to the Dryden on New Year’s Eve to see films with just the right bubbly mood, to match the champagne of the night. For this New Year’s Eve, the Dryden is showcasing two Hollywood classics about stylish jewel thieves.

The first, at 7 p.m., is To Catch a Thief (1955), with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, one of the lighter and more effervescent of Alfred Hitchcock’s gems. (It was also the film in which Kelly became acquainted with what would become her home, in Monaco.)

The second film, Desire (1936), is at 9:15 p.m. and stars Marlene Dietrich as a veteran jewel thief who becomes distracted by the handsome Gary Cooper.

Most Rochester filmgoers have great memories of the Dryden, and these films should only add to them. Then, on March 2, we can begin to amass even more memories — but in far more comfortable seats, with more legroom.