With the ubiquity of DVDs, Blu-ray and the technology that enables us to pull from the air just about any movie we want to see when we want to see it, it would seem only natural that film societies are unnecessary relics. But for many film lovers, the chance to see great movies with others and then discuss them is the irresistible.
There are a number of film societies that are thriving and growing in the western suburbs.
Geneva Film Festival April 14-16
This is courtesy of the Geneva Film Festival website:
"Since its beginning in 2007, the Geneva Film Festival has grown in popularity and status in the independent film festival community. Prior festivals have showcased award-winning feature films including "Say It In Russian", "Tapioca", and Hoop Dreams.
"Geneva has long been a destination for affluent, well-educated, and culturally aware visitors from the Chicago area and around the globe. Local businesses and event sponsors benefit from ongoing tourism and the festival's growing popularity. National and international companies also enjoy the opportunity to enhance brand awareness with this influential demographic.
"Festival organizers are looking forward to an even bigger and better fourth annual event in 2011. In addition to world-class films, the event features an opening night gala, educational workshops, closing awards ceremonies and much more."
Silent Film Society
Silent films often are said to be the only pure cinema since they tell stories with images only. Tragically, more than 80 percent of all silent film prints are gone forever. The Silent Film Society of Chicago "is dedicated to preserving the silent film heritage by bringing it to today's audiences through its proper presentation.''
Part of that proper presentation is the theaters in which the society screens silent films. The society uses three theaters, one of which is the Arcada Theater at North Avenue (Rt. 64) and the Fox River in St. Charles. The first film shown there by the society was "The General,'' with Buster Keaton in 2002. The 900-seat Arcada opened in 1927 and has been restored, along with the theater's organ.
Membership in the Silent Film Society of Chicago Society is $35 for individuals and $30 for senior citizens and full-time students. Membership includes discounted admission to screenings. For more information about the society, call (773) 205-SFSC, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elmhurst College Classic Film Society
The Elmhurst College Classic Film Society "was started by me in December of 2009 to screen old classic movies,'' Donald Romano says. "We started off very small, sometimes seven or eight people showing up. Our last few films, however, have brought us anywhere from 50 to 60 people, which is very exciting for us.''
Admission is free and open to the public. The next showing will be Feb. 18 or 25. The film has not yet been selected, but Jean-Luc Goddard's "Breathless'' and David Lean's "Brief Encounter'' are the most likely candidates. Films are shown at 8 p.m. on Fridays. For more information about the Elmhurst College Classic Film Society, contact email@example.com.
After Hours Film Society
Since 1989, the After Hours Film Society has been providing film lovers "with the most comprehensive line-up of foreign, classic and specialty films available. And, to further enhance the experience, each screening will be followed by a lecture or group discussion led by educators and film professionals.''
Films are shown at 7:30 p.m. on second and fourth Monday of every month (except December, when films are shown on the first Monday only) at the Tivoli Theatre, 5021 Highland Ave., Downers Grove. The 1,000-seat theater is 75 years old. Patrons attending film society screenings are entertained by live music from a 1924, three-manual, 10-rank Wurlitzer theater organ. Admission is $5 for members and $9 for nonmembers. Annual memberships are available for $25 for individuals and $35 for a family.
Contact the After Hours Film Society at Dept. WS, P.O. Box 3534, Glen Ellyn, IL 60138-3534. Or phone (630) 534-4528. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The Tivoli Theatre can be contacted at (630) 968-0219.
Hinsdale Public Library Foundation's Film Society
Some public libraries have begun hosting film societies of their own. For example, the Hinsdale Public Library Foundation's Film Society meets at 6:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month in the library's large meeting room, 20 E. Maple St. A discussion follows each film. The next film will be screened on Feb. 17. For more information and to find out what is showing, call (630) 986-1976.
La Grange Public Library Classic Film Club
The La Grange Public Library Classic Film Club meets and screens a film on the third Friday of every month at the library, 10 W. Cossitt Ave., La Grange. The next showing will be at 1 p.m. Feb. 18. Registration is required. Call (708) 352-0576. E-mail events.lagrangelibrary.org.
Film societies don't view themselves as merely static museums.
At. Elmhurst College, Donald Romano is focused on growing Classic Film Society.
"We have free popcorn and cookies and free Elmhurst College Classic Film Society pins for first-time visitors,'' he says. "And for $15 you can get a film society T-shirt. We also have a raffle for a DVD copy of the film being screened which is also free. We have a suggestion box and are always open for discussion after the films."
Romano said that he is working with a catering company to offer dinner and movie event, a project which may materialize by March.