Abington Journal

More Than Movies: Dietrich Theater film festival in full swing

Have you ever wondered how Tunkhannock’s Dietrich Theater became a film festival venue? Film festivals are held all around the world – the best known ones are in Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Toronto, New York and Utah. So how did the Dietrich Theater in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania evolve to feature four film festivals a year, showing as many as 84 foreign and independent films?

In 1998, a small group in Tunkhannock jumped into action when the long-closed Dietrich Theater was put up for sale. Why not buy it, reopen it, and reinvent it as a movie theater and cultural center? The people and businesses in town gave generous donations to make a down payment and the work began to bring back the beloved Dietrich Theater.

Opening in 2001, Hildy Morgan, founder and first executive director, remembers, “We always hoped to be an art house.”

In order to develop an audience in our rural corner of the Endless Mountains, we were awarded a grant from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council to show eight foreign and independent films, followed by discussions led by professors or film buffs. People came! We had an audience! Hildy remembers that people would come out of the movies wanting to talk to someone about them.

In 2003, our film buyer Jeffrey Jacobs suggested we have a film festival in the fall. Fourteen films in 14 days. A film festival with an Opening Night Gala. Local restaurants and Epicurean Delight donated the food and we bought the wine. We have had film festivals ever since — one in the fall and one in the spring, until 2015.

Then Erica, executive director, and Ronnie, film booker, had a new vision. Because we have an established and growing audience for foreign and independent movies, why not have a film festival each season? Four film festivals a year, allowing us to show as many as 84 art films a year?

Fast forward to the present — to Winter Fest 2018 when we are sold out for Opening Night! Our early dream to be an art house for foreign and independent films has come true. Showing 84 art films a year would be impossible without our film festivals. But we can show them during festivals spanning 12 weeks during the year.

Come celebrate with us by coming to the featured films in Winter Fest 2018. We know everyone wants to see “Lady Bird” and “3 Billboards of Ebbing, Missouri,” the ones featured on Opening Night. “Shape of Water” is an other worldly fastasy, “Darkest Hour” is a must-see performance by Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, “Call Me By Your Name” is a beautiful love story for our time. There are 16 more acclaimed films just waiting for you with multiple showings through March 8.

We so hope to see you here in historic downtown Tunkhannock. Come for the movies, stay for a meal at one of our wonderful restaurants and visit our charming shops. Please come soon and often.

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More Than Movies

Margie Young

Reach the Abington Journal newsroom at 570-587-1148 or news@theabingtonjournal.com.