For those who are tired of living in the present, an immersive experience in the past of film is waiting just a few blocks off campus.
Started in November 1998, the Retro Film Series at the Carolina Theatre is the second longest-running genre film series in the United States. Focusing on movies created between 1930 and 1995, it consists of five sub-series: RetroFantasma for horror, sci-fi and action-adventure films; RetroClassics for dramas, westerns and mystery-thrillers; RetroTreasures for comedies and musicals; RetroAmore for romance and love stories; and the more recently created RetroEpics for long films such as "Once Upon a Time in the West" and "The Sound of Music." One of the series, besides RetroEpics, plays a double feature on alternating Friday nights.
“The Retro experience isn’t just coming to see an old movie on the big screen,” said Jim Carl, senior director at the Carolina. “We’re going to take you back to the night when it first came out.”
To create the atmosphere, the theatre plays a montage of famous film clips relating to the series' theme before the actual films begin. Then, it screens movie trailers that would have played opening night. In the case of "The NeverEnding Story," trailers included ones for "Ghostbusters" and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," both of which were released in 1984.
“The best part of the movie experience was the commitment to the little details of the Retro theme, like telling us historical facts at the beginning and playing the trailers from the day,” said freshman Angela Liu after seeing a Retro film for the first time.
Aside from the montage, trailers and facts about the movie, Carl also raffles off door prizes related to the films being shown.
“I didn’t want the series to become like Rocky Horror Picture Show, with people yelling at the screen and getting rowdy,” said Carl, “I want people to have a good time, but respect the material on screen.”
The audience the most recent showing included many frequent Retro patrons who are really passionate about the source material.
"Everyone there really enjoyed watching the movie and weren't even on their phones or anything," Liu said.
Because each Retro series has its own montage, themes and atmosphere, each has its own following. Although films include more popular titles such as "Jaws" and "The Princess Bride," they also incorporate lesser-known movies that would otherwise never be seen in theater.
By going to a double feature, moviegoers have a chance to watch old favorites as well as less predictable, yet still culturally relevant films. Although the films vary in popularity, Carl stated that average attendance is around 150 people each showing, with many selling out at 229.
Carl, whose motto is “interesting is good, fun is better,” said he selects films for Retro that people who grew up with them would want to bring their kids to—which is often exactly what happens.
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“I’ve heard many stories of couples who met at a Retro film or had their first date here, who kept coming back, who got married and eventually started bringing their kids to Retro films,” he said.