, Newburyport, MA


January 17, 2013

Offbeat and Outstanding

Traditional old theater at historic Music Hall makes for a unique viewing experience

There are so many live events at The Music Hall in Portsmouth that it’s easy to forget that this historic venue also is a great movie house.

It’s an old school movie theater, in fact, complete with a small concession stand right outside the theater doors and a curtain that pulls back when the movie begins.

Chris Curtis, who is the programming coordinator at The Music Hall, said the old theater is the perfect place to watch a movie because the venue itself provokes the senses. That’s just what the

films shown at The Music Hall are chosen to do. And that’s why the film series as been named “Extraordinary Cinema.”

Film curator Bill Pence co-founded the Telluride Film Festival with his wife, Stella. That popular event in Colorado inspired the Telluride By The Sea Film Festival, which takes place annually at The Music Hall. Curtis, who works alongside Pence, said they try to choose smaller films that may not be booked at the megaplex in Newington, N.H. or other mainstream theaters in the region.

“Extraordinary Cinema” at The Music Hall has three major film programs: Telluride By The Sea, Film Matters and the Wild Card series.

Telluride, which takes place in September, is not yet scheduled. The other two, however, are ongoing.

Film Matters just finished showing “The Sessions,” Curtis said. That films stars John Hawkes and Helen Hunt and is gaining strong Oscar buzz. Film Matters features one film for one or two week showings every month.

Here are the upcoming Film Matters offerings:

“The Central Park Five,” directed by New Hampshire-based Ken Burns and Sarah Burns (a father and daughter team). According to the program notes, this film is about about a notorious incident in New York City: “In 1989, five black and Latino teenagers were arrested and charged for brutally attacking and raping a white female jogger in Central Park. But the truth about what really happened didn’t become clear until after the five had spent years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit.” (Jan. 18 through Jan. 24.)

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