Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Douglas Fairbanks Sr. to the rescue!
Next up in Wilton, N.H.: 'Robin Hood' (1922)

Douglas Fairbanks Sr. as 'Robin Hood': robbing the the rich, giving to the poor, and saving local independent cinemas!

And now, news from the front lines of small independent cinemas.

Last week, the Town Hall Theatre of Wilton, N.H. stopped playing first-run movies or new releases.

Why? Lack of films, and also lack of film-goers.

Thanks to the coronavirus, Hollywood is holding back a lot of what's in the pipeline. Or, in the case of 'Hamilton,' bypassing theaters and going direct to streaming.

And theater-goers are staying away, due to the lack of on-screen excitement and also over lingering fears of joining strangers in close proximity for two hours or more.

For the Town Hall Theatre, an independent movie house that reopened in early July after a four-month closure, it's an equation that doesn't add up.

Dennis Markaverich, longtime owner/operator of the Town Hall Theatre, took every precaution prior to reopening, implementing procedures to follow all public health guidelines to the letter.

The Town Hall Theatre's main screening room, which normally seats 216 but is limited to 50 percent capacity, or 108.

But since opening in early July (after a four-month closure due to N.H.'s stay-at-home order), attendance has been abysmal. On many evenings, not a single person showed up for the films on his two screens.

I was there one night and the grand total for both theaters was one person. I got to hear Dennis report the evening's box office by phone, which he announced grandly:

"Tonight, five, as in five dollars. That's one senior admission!"

Well, you can't run a theater without movies and without movie-goers. So last week, Dennis reluctantly went back into what he calls "intermission mode," ceasing the screening of first-run films until better conditions prevail. That might be Labor Day weekend, but could be longer.

The one exception to the pattern has been the Town Hall's silent film series, which also restarted in early July when the theater reopened. On the program: a summertime series of silent swashbucklers (say that five times fast) starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr.!

Our first title, 'The Thief of Bagdad' (1924), brought in about 30 people. Our next one, Fairbanks in 'The Three Musketeers' (1921), had 50 people attend. Wow, a box office record!

Both Dennis and I remarked on the irony: even as today's Hollywood leaves independent theaters in the lurch, yesterday's Hollywood could outdraw today's product and still save the day at the box office. Douglas Fairbanks to the rescue!

So even though first-run films are on pause, the "Silent Film Sunday" series will continue with our Douglas Fairbanks swashbuckler series.

Next up is 'Robin Hood' (1922), to be screened on Sunday, Aug. 9 at 2 p.m. with live music by me. More details in the press release below.

And after that, we're cooking up something special: a whole week of silent film comedy to fill the void left by Hollywood's first-run failure.

More on that in a bit. For now, check your calendar and hope you can join us on Sunday, Aug. 9 as we travel back to medieval England and Sherwood Forest with Douglas Fairbanks Sr. in 'Robin Hood.'

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Douglas Fairbanks plays the title role in 'Robin Hood' (1922).
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

'Robin Hood' leaps into action at Town Hall Theatre on Sunday, Aug. 9

It's off to Sherwood Forest as Douglas Fairbanks summer swashbuckler series continues, with live music

WILTON, N.H.—He robbed from the rich, gave to the poor, and was the top box office attraction of 1922.

He was Douglas Fairbanks Sr. starring in 'Robin Hood,' the original blockbuster movie adaptation of the legendary tale.

See it for yourself on the big screen on Sunday, Aug. 9 at 2 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H., 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H.

Admission is free; a donation of $10 per person is suggested to help defray expenses.

The screening will be accompanied with live music by Jeff Rapsis.

It's part of a summer season of silent swashbucklers starring the charismatic Fairbanks, one of early cinema's most popular stars.

Set in medieval England, 'Robin Hood' tells the tale of the Earl of Huntingdon (Fairbanks), a dashing nobleman who joins King Richard the Lion-Hearted (Wallace Beery) on a Crusade to the Holy Land.

Huntingdon later returns to England to find Richard's cruel brother, Prince John (Sam De Grasse), falsely claiming the throne, enriching his aristocratic cronies and tyrannizing the citizenry.

Enid Bennett as Lady Marian and Douglas Fairbanks playing the title role in 'Robin Hood' (1922).

Huntingdon takes to the woods and becomes 'Robin Hood,' soon joined by a band of merry men who undermine Prince John's reign by robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.

Can Robin Hood and his men vanquish their enemy, the High Sheriff of Nottingham (William Lowery)? And can they rescue Lady Marian Fitzwalter (Enid Bennett), Huntingdon's betrothed, from the evil clutches of Prince John?

Along the way, Fairbanks has ample opportunity to demonstrate his skills in archery, fencing, and acrobatics.

Directed by Allan Dwan, 'Robin Hood' amazed audiences with its enormous sets that recreated in full scale the castles and villages of medieval England.

At a time when $200,000 was a hefty movie budget, 'Robin Hood' cost $1 million to produce.

Douglas Fairbanks Sr. (center) and Allan Dwan directing scenes from 'Robin Hood' (1922).

But the film proved an enormous hit, becoming the top box office attraction of 1922 and earning $2.5 million in its initial release through United Artists, the distribution company Fairbanks formed with fellow stars Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, and his wife, Mary Pickford.

Fairbanks, among the most popular stars of the 1920s, was the inspiration for the character of George Valentin in the Oscar-winning Best Picture 'The Artist' (2011). Fairbanks was known for films that used the then-new medium of motion pictures to transport audiences to historical time periods for grand adventures and athletic stunts.

He's often referred to as "Douglas Fairbanks Sr." to avoid confusion with his son, the actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Also in the cast for 'Robin Hood' is Alan Hale Sr., who made such an impression at Little John that he was cast in the same role in the 1938 remake starring Errol Flynn. (Hale's son, Alan Hale Jr., played the role of the Skipper on the 1960s television series "Gilligan's Island.")

Live music for 'Robin Hood' will be provided by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis, who uses a digital synthesizer to create a traditional full orchestra "movie score" sound.

"Seeing a Fairbanks picture in a theater with live music and an audience is a classic movie experience," Rapsis said.

Original promotional art for 'Robin Hood' (1922).

Rapsis emphasized the unique value of seeing early cinema as it was originally presented.

"These films were designed for the big screen, live music, and large audiences. Put it all together again, and you get a sense of why people first fell in love with the movies," Rapsis said.

'Robin Hood' continues a summer season of silent swashbucklers at the Town Hall Theatre, all starring Douglas Fairbanks. The series will conclude with a special Saturday/Sunday screening of 'The Mark of Zorro' (1920) and its sequel, 'Don Q, Son of Zorro' (1925) on the last weekend of August:

• Saturday, Aug. 29 at 2 p.m. 'The Mark of Zorro' (1920) starring Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. 100th anniversary of the break-through adventure film where Fairbanks discovered his talent for playing swashbuckling heroes of yore. Still pleasing crowds a century after it first hit theaters!

• Sunday, Aug. 30 at 2 p.m.: 'Don Q, Son of Zorro' (1925) starring Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. Action/adventure sequel to mega-hit 'Zorro' with Fairbanks playing both son and father, and having a ball in both roles. Builds on the original film to create a hugely entertaining swashbuckler that shows how far Hollywood had come in just five years.

For all screenings, accommodations will be made to keep Town Hall Theatre patrons safe in the Covid-19 era. Also, seating will be arranged to observe social distancing and masks will be required inside the theater until patrons are seated.

'Robin Hood' (1922) starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr., will be screened with live music on Sunday, Aug. 9 at 2 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H. Admission is free; a donation of $10 per person is suggested to defray expenses.

For more info, visit or call (603) 654-3456.

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