It may not be the coldest, snowiest winter on record, but that doesn't mean people aren't suffering from a bout of cabin fever. The Paradise Theatre can provide some relief. The theater's annual Cabin Fever Film Series opens this Friday with "Loving Vincent."
The first of six films in this year's Cabin Fever series, the animated indie hit, "Loving Vincent," (PG-13) tells the remarkable story of artist Vincent van Gogh's life and death through a series of 62,450 frames of professionally hand painted oil paintings, or roughly 12 paintings per second.
Due to public demand, the theater wanted to show the film in 2017, but production took longer than expected and it was released last fall, explained Paradise general manager Sunshine Knight. The world's first fully painted feature film, the award-winning movie quickly grossed $20 million at box offices worldwide, which is considered rare for an independent animated film.
"Faces Places" (PG), in which director Agnes Varda and photographer/muralist J.R. form an unlikely friendship while on a journey through rural France, will run Feb. 2-4 and 6-8.
Other films include "The Square" (R), a satirical drama about the sense of community, moral courage and the affluent person's need for egocentricity in an increasingly uncertain world; "Darkest Hour" (PG-13); "The Shape of Water" (R); and "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool" (R).
Since the early 1990s the Paradise has brought independent films both foreign and domestic to Paonia's big screen through the Cabin Fever series. It's also brought people to the theater during a time when attendance tends to wane. Starting around the end of December, "It's tough for theaters," said Knight.
That's pretty much how the film series tradition started back in the early 1990s. Former theater owner Stu Carlson continued the festival after he bought the Paradise in 2001. He credits Danny Perkins for starting it. Perkins, who bought the theater in 1991 and is credited with changing the name from the Paonia Theater to the Paradise, decided to show some independent films during the winter when business was slow.
Carlson continued the tradition, and started offering film festival passes at a discount, which people could share. During winter when business was slow, the idea was to get as many people in the theater as possible. "Back then it was a good idea," he said.
Back then, Carlson selected films by perusing the few publications that covered the independent film industry, and by attending festivals like the Telluride Film Festival, which in 2017 celebrated its 44th year.
Once films caught the attention of the public, they would circulate through the theaters, said Carlson. A lot of them were only screened in big cities, and Carlson wanted to give people living in a small town an opportunity to experience them.
During his tenure he showed 10 films per series. A few, like the 2002 film "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," "just exploded" in popularity. Some films blurred the line between independent film and blockbuster, he said, and studios started wanting more money to screen their films.
As a result Carlson said he tried to stick to the "truly Indie" films. He recalled one of them, "Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner," that was made by an Inuit filmmaker and produced by his Inuit production company.
He also strove to show a mix of half American and half foreign films, to mix up the categories, and to show films that were "unique and out there."
He recalls one Italian film, "The Best of Youth," that chronicled a journey of two brothers through their lives. He'd seen it at a festival and loved it. It was six hours long and was screened at the Paradise over two nights. Only about eight people showed up for both nights. "Everyone said they were so glad I showed it," he said.
Carson said he took a loss on the film, and lot of the other films, but said he doesn't regret it. "It was totally worth it." Each year, he said, the festival brings amazing films to Paonia, but the amazing thing about the festival, he said, "is that it's still going on," and hasn't changed all that much since it began.
The Paradise is now community-owned and operated. Today, films are chosen by the theater's film committee, with a lot of consideration on input from the community, said Knight. The series is well-attended, and some films sell out very quickly, which she anticipates will happen with Loving Vincent.
"It's best to arrive early, especially on weekends," said Knight. Attendees who arrive 10 minutes prior to the start of the movie will be entered into a monthly drawing for theater punch passes.
Films run through March 8. Show times are 7 p.m. Friday-Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday, with 3 p.m. matinees showing Wednesdays and Sundays. Admission is $10 per film, or $50 for all six films with a gold pass (which can still be shared). Visit paradiseofpaonia.com for more information.