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Family Fun: Flashback Cinema brings film favorites back to the big screen

UPDATED: Mon., May 3, 2021

The Hollywood classic "The Wizard of Oz" cast includes Nert Lahr, Judy Garland, Ray Bolger and Jack Haley.  (NBC)
The Hollywood classic "The Wizard of Oz" cast includes Nert Lahr, Judy Garland, Ray Bolger and Jack Haley. (NBC)

Toto, we’re not in our living rooms anymore.

Flashback Cinema is bringing “The Wizard of Oz” back to the big screen for Mother’s Day weekend in theaters across the country, including Village Centre Cinemas Wandermere.

“The movie is so beloved,” John Hersker said. “It’s a perfect movie for a family to go to on Mother’s Day.”

Hersker, who grew up working in his parents’ movie theater and has worked in the industry his entire life, created Flashback Cinema in 2016 to bring classic movies to the big screen, but his definition of classic is loose.

It can be one of the greats of Hollywood’s Golden Age, like “The Wizard of Oz” or “Gone With the Wind,” or a more recent movie like “The Dark Knight” or “Mamma Mia!”

For Hersker, one of the defining characteristics of classic is when people say, “Wouldn’t it be fun to see ‘Blank’ in the theater.”

Sometimes, it’s about the scope of the movie. “Ben Hur” is an example of that, Hersker said. “Seeing that chariot race on the big screen is thrilling.”

Or sometimes, “it’s just the loyalty that fans have toward a movie.” For instance, parents who grew up in the ’80s might have fond memories of going to see “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in the theater, and they’ve shown the movie to their kids at home, but they want them to see it in the theater.

“I believe, like many people do, that the best place to experience a movie is in a theater. … You’ve got the big screen, you’ve got other people in the auditorium with you to laugh, cry, scream during a scary move,” he said. “It’s a communal experience that really enhances your enjoyment of the movie.”

Hersker gives an on-screen introduction to each film in the series with insights into the production, some of the backstory or trivia. For instance, with “The Wizard of Oz,” Judy Garland was not the first choice for Dorothy. Shirley Temple was, but she was under contract to 20th Century Fox.

Garland “probably knew she wasn’t the first choice,” Herskser said. “But, boy, she made it her own.”

Some of the movies repeat in the lineup, like “Jaws,” which shows every July, or “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which usually screens Christmas week.

“They’re real favorites,” he said. “People come back every year to see them.”

Flashback Cinema only shows movies that are available digitally, so that limits some of the titles. But, Hersker said, that means the quality is terrific, with none of the scratches or splices audiences may have experienced with film versions of the old movies.

And seeing old favorites on the big screen can give viewers a new perspective. He’ll often hear from fans saying, “I’ve seen that movies so many times, how could I have missed that?”

“There’s something about the big screen in the dark that allows you to enjoy it in a way that you just can’t at home,” he said.

One upcoming movie he’s excited about is “Trading Places,” the 1983 comedy starring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy. It will start screening May 21.

“ ‘Trading Places’ to me is just a good, old fashioned comedy, and I think we need those right now,” he said. “I think we need them more than ever.”

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