Nestled into the picturesque setting of Franklin, Indiana’s historic downtown is a tiny, one screen, theater dating back to 1922 known as the “Artcraft Theater”. This Saturday’s adventure had us sitting in on a matinee at the Historic Artcraft laughing uproariously at the classically hilarious movie: Clue.
When I was a kid, growing up in Franklin, the theater showed first run movies. It was the place I first saw the movie “Titanic”, which they showed continuously for over a month! About the time I graduated from High School, the bar next door to the theater bought the building, and turned the Artcraft into a music venue, which seemed fun, but was disastrous. The bands that came in wrecked the old building. Thankfully, the Artcraft was purchased by the Franklin Heritage Historic Society in 2004 and has been renovated over the last decade to restore it to it’s original glory. Their most recent renovation efforts has been to the most visible portion of the theater: the marquee. These small details have become a point of personal pride for Franklin Heritage, and really the town of Franklin as a whole.
The theater is certainly a quirky one, and the experiences it offers to it’s patrons are just as quirky. Prior to every showing an announcer chats up the audience, asking how far people came from, and telling everyone a little about the history of the theater. They get local kids involved in this bit of performance, wheeling out large maps to mark where the furthest traveler came from and historic bingo cages to do drawings for raffles (based upon the number on your ticket stub). Lastly, before the feature begins, everyone is invited to stand and join in on a sing along of the national anthem. It’s an odd, but fun experience.
Furthermore, in true old-timey fashion there is a cartoon that shows before the movie. This weekends cartoon was a showing of a Merry Melodies cartoon circa 1941 about the case of the Big Bad Wolf vs Little Red Riding Hood in which we got to hear and see the defense testimony of the Wolf. I think the adults in the audience possibly get more of a kick out of the old cartoons then the kids, as I know it certainly was a call back to the cartoons that showed early in the morning before I caught the bus to school.
After all of the excitement and hub-bub, the movie finally begins. It’s a special treat to see old favorites back on the big screen. The theater encourages people to have fun and participate in the movie. When memorably funny lines occurred, nearly the whole theater said them along with the actors: “Let us out! Let us out!” “Let us in! Let us in!”. It’s not quite audience participation on par with the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but I could certainly foresee that kind of experience if the theater had a regularly showing film.
This showing was extra fun for us because it was also an extended polycule date! Joshua, Amber, Jasmine, Crystal, Chris, Jinny, and myself were all able to coordinate our schedules and get together for the afternoon, which is so amazingly rare I *think* this might be the first time it’s occurred. It always seems like someone can’t make it! Franklin is a small town with small town ideals, and I think we confused the hell out of the usher nearest our group. He kept starring, in that all too familiar way, that says he is trying to figure us weirdos out. We weren’t snogging in the theater, but people certainly were holding hands and putting their arms around their partners, like ya do, which seemed to be the source of the confusion by that poor volunteer. Want to Volunteer at the Artcraft? Click Here!.
The line up for the theater’s 2016-2017 schedule looks like it has a lot more fun coming down the way for old movie lovers. In April the theater is hosting a Tim Burton Film Festival, and then later in the year they are showing “The Big Lebowski”, “The Wizard of Oz”, and “The Goonies”! For a full listing of their showings, just click here.