Holiday film festival thrives in Hopewell



By Bruce Chadwick

originally published: 12/13/2021

How could a holiday film festival be better than a festival with a train to the North Pole, planes and automobiles, the grown man who was an elf, rushing at the Gremlins, a big old green Grinch , the crazy people of National Lampoon and the kid with the red Ryder Carbine that’s sure to poke his eye out?

This is the colorful Hopewell Theater Holiday Film Festival, which opens Saturday, Dec. 18 in Hopewell, NJ (5 So. Greenwood Ave.) and runs through Dec. 30, snow or no snow.

The festival is aimed at children and families, with most afternoon screenings and most films on the theme of children and children at heart.

The Hopewell Theater, home to plays and plenty of live music events, is also the perfect Christmas home, as it has spent most of its long life as a movie theater. What’s better for a movie theater than a movie festival?

The theater itself reopened in 2017. The first holiday film festival debuted in 2018 and was repeated in 2019. The theater was closed last year due to the pandemic, and the festival this year is the third. The theater bounces from the pandemic like gifts of bouncing balls under a huge green Christmas tree.

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“We hope this becomes a Christmas tradition in the region,” said Kendra Thatcher, Programming Manager at the Hopewell Theater. “It is also a family tradition in its own right. We receive children, their parents and even their grandparents.

How does Kendra Thatcher and her colleagues select films? They go directly to favorites. “Each year we keep tables of the films that we show are the favorites, then we bring back most of them the following year. Gremlins, for example, is a big favorite with everyone, ”she said.

It’s hard to choose movies and even more so because a Christmas festival is limited to, well, the Christmas season. “I wish we could show more Christmas movies, but we can’t.”

Thatcher’s favorite? “I can’t name one, but at the top of my list is Gremlins, National Lampoon’s Christmas vacation and It’s a wonderful life. I think they are near the top of everyone’s list.

The range is Polar Express, Saturday at 1, A Christmas story, Saturday at 4, How the Grinch stole Christmas, Sunday at 2, Gremlins, December 26 at 2, Aircraft Trains and Automobiles, December 29 at 4.30 p.m., Elf, December 29 at 7 a.m. and National Lampoon Christmas Goescation, December 30 to 7.

At first the films seem like a strange bunch. Thatcher smiles. “Think about them. As an example, people remember Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but don’t remember it’s a holiday movie, which it sure is, ”she said. “Others are real favorites. Years ago TV ran a 24 hour marathon A Christmas story during the holiday season. It will always be on television.

A Christmas story is the beloved small town story of a little boy, Ralphie, to a crazy, stressed out family who desperately want a Red Ryder rifle for Christmas, even though everyone tells him he’s gonna “shoot himself. above “with.

Ralphie’s family are crazy? What about Chevy Chase and his family in National Lampoon’s Christmas holidays, in which they decide not to travel for Christmas? They stay home for a quiet vacation and all hell breaks loose amid Christmas lights and carols.

Not just the house, but the whole town is getting clumsy Gremlins when a father’s holiday gift, a strange little creature called the “mogwai” turns the village upside down. Jim Carrey as the Grinch also turns a town upside down when he tries to steal everything and everything Christmas related.

In Trains, planes and automobiles, everything is fine until a plane flying home for the Thanksgiving vacation is forced to land in a snowstorm and Seve Martin has to sleep with John Candy. Can anyone imagine a night out with these two?

Thatcher believes the Hopewell Theater Film Festival will become an icon this Christmas. “You know It’s a wonderful life will be on TV in November or December. It’s just a matter of which channel. This is what we would like to do here – be there for the people every year during the holidays.

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It just seems fitting that the Hopewell Theater is now home to a holiday film festival, as it has housed just about everything else in its 141-year history. It opened in 1880 as Columbia Hall, a vaudeville house, and kept its doors open until the Depression ended in 1939. The building was then demolished and a new structure, the Colonial Playhouse. , a two-story building, was erected in its place. The second floor of the auditorium was used as a cinema room. The first floor housed the city’s fire department and the borough council. Pollster George Gallup bought the building in the early 1960s and for years it was one of his national voting centers. It was sold to the Thick family in 1984 and operated as a cinema by them until 2014. It was closed and then reopened in 2017. Today it is packed with Gremlins and Grinches.

Masks are mandatory for all moviegoers at the holiday festival.

The same goes for belief in Santa Claus.

Bruce Chadwick worked for 23 years as an entertainment writer / critic for the New York Daily News. He later served as an art and entertainment critic for History News Network, a national online weekly. Chadwick holds a doctorate in history and cultural studies from Rutgers University. He has written 31 books on the history of the United States and has lectured on history and culture around the world. He is professor of history at New Jersey City University.


Gerald R. Schneider