TUNKHANNOCK — Ronnie Harvey, movie buff and theater enthusiast, figures he has the coolest job he could ask for: booking films for the Dietrich Theater.
The 28-year-old is the main man behind the curtain when it comes to the selection of titles in the non-profit movie theater and cultural center’s now-quarterly film festivals, the next of which is the 14th Annual Fall Film Festival, set for Friday, Sept. 16 through Thursday, Oct. 6.
With 21 films slated for multiple showings over 21 days, the event is pulled off by a score of staff members, volunteers and sponsors. It will kick off Friday evening, with the Opening Night Gala, featuring two films; hors d’oeuvres from Twigs, Epicurean Delight, The Fireplace and Ma Greenley’s; wine and beer provided by Nimble Hill, and dessert by Epicurean Delight.
“It takes so many local volunteers,” said Executive Director Erica Rogler. “We start planning for opening night months in advance.”
Of the gala refreshments, she said, “It’s like a cruise ship spread.”
Opening night tickets are $40 and reservations are required. They can be made by calling the Dietrich at 570-996-1500. Reservations are not required for the rest of the festival showings, and both matinee and evening tickets are $8.50 each.
Harvey said although he plans to catch all 21 titles, he is especially excited for the opening night movies, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” and “Captain Fantastic.”
“Since I picked them, honestly I want to see all of them,” he said. “‘Indignation’ looks very well done. And some of our documentaries are timely and exciting. ‘The Music of Strangers’ looks really beautiful – the one about Yo-Yo Ma. ‘Weiner’ is very timely, politically.”
He added he also looks forward to seeing “The Witness,” which he thinks will be a hit because of the current popularity of “real crime” stories.
The festival also features documentaries, one of which is “The Messenger,” in which filmmaker Su Rynard explores the hazards faced by songbirds around the world, leading to their decreasing populations. Naturalist and bird enthusiast Rick Koval, of WNEP Pennsylvania Outdoor Life will introduce this film during a special festival event at 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22. After the showing, he will give a presentation on the topic.
Rogler said by having four festivals a year now, the theater is able to not only bring in “more movies, but more of a variety as well.”
Which means even more work for Harvey and the theater’s New York City film buyer Jeffrey Jacobs.
Now an assistant theater manager, Harvey began working at the theater about 10 years ago, just after graduating high school, when Vice President Hildy Morgan recognized his dedication and passion for movies and recruited him. He soon worked his way up to supervisor and projectionist, then the managerial position.
He describes his job of booking movies as “a puzzle.”
“Every week, I figure out what films are being released nation-wide and what films can leave, so I can make room for the next ones,” he said. “I have a calendar of the months and the weeks that each movie is being released, and I try to fit the movies that I want in that puzzle.”
“So, when he’s booking the movies for this week, he’s not only thinking about this week, he’s thinking what’s it going to affect next week, and the week after, and maybe a month from now, because you always want to secure the best movies,” Rogler said.
For the film festivals, this work starts even further in advance. For example, Harvey said he is now working on the lineup for the winter festival, which doesn’t open until February.
He explained the process starts with researching the movies set to release within the few months leading up to the event. He pays special attention to Oscar contenders and films that are receiving “awards buzz” in the festival circuit. He compiles a list of possibilities, based on what the theater can potentially book, the demographics of the festival’s audience and similarities to films that worked well there in the past. He views the trailers to gain a personal opinion, reads critics’ reviews and listens to the opinion of the other staff members at the theater.
Eventually he narrows the list down to 30 or 40 potential titles and sends it off to Jacobs, who refines it even more. The two communicate back and forth, continuing to make changes, until the final selections are made.
“Our film buyer brings the perspective of what’s hot in New York City at the time, whereas Ronnie brings to the table not only what’s current and hot worldwide, but what he thinks our clientele will respond to those movies,” said Rogler.
Festival-goers will have the opportunity to meet Harvey and talk about the films during a free post-festival discussion, scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7 at the theater. Registration is not required, and all are welcome to attend, whether they saw just one, a few or all 21 films. Harvey leads the discussion and everyone is invited to participate, talking about what they liked and disliked and their interpretations of the stories.
“You leave a movie sometimes and you want to talk to somebody about what you just witnessed, but you can’t,” Harvey said. “So, that’s our way of getting all those people together.”
For more information about the fall film festival, call the Dietrich at 570-996-1500. A complete list of movies and show times is available online at dietrichtheater.com.