United Artists at the Castro

As I’m playing catch-up, I’ve noticed the big United Artists 90 Anniversary series at the Castro. Ten programs, nine of them double bills, of movies released by UA.

Actually, there’s considerably more. The current Castro listings (from April 2nd through May 8th) have an additional seven double bills of exclusively United Artist releases. I have no idea why these aren’t officially part of the series.

Both the official and unofficial UA double bills give a pretty good idea of the excellent product that company was putting out in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. The titles include Annie Hall, West Side Story, The Manchurian Candidate, Raging Bull, A Shot in the Dark, and Some Like It Hot.

A lot is missing, of course, including any James Bond or Beatles movies. Also, for a 90th Anniversary celebration, it’s kind of weird that there isn’t a single film in the program more than 53 years old.

Weird, but explainable. Before the early 1950s, United Artists pretty much just released films financed and made by independent producers (including the four artists who united to create it: Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, D. W. Griffith, and Mary Pickford). The producers held onto the rights, so UA never didn’t acquire a library. And that means that the current owners of UA–last I checked, it’s a subsidiary of MGM, recently bought by Columbia Pictures, which is owned by Sony)–has no reason to promote them.

Still, if you really want to celebrate United Artists, you should include City Lights, The Thief of Baghdad (actually, both versions), Broken Blossoms, Stagecoach, and many more.

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2 Responses

  1. I think they’re all “official”. On the printed calendar, only ten of the days in the series say “UNITED ARTISTS 90TH ANNIVERSARY FILM FESTIVAL” in the box for that day. But each of those ten fall the day after some non-United Artists programming at the theatre; the seven double-bills without the tag all follow a UA program. I think the tag is for clarity’s sake, not to mark some of the programs as more official than others.

    I agree with your last paragraph. I’m jealous of other cities that are getting Broken Blossoms, Way Down East and Steamboat Bill, Jr. among the selections.

  2. When I first examined the schedule (online, not the print one), I assumed they were all official. Then I noticed that the ones that said “UNITED ARTISTS 90TH ANNIVERSARY FILM FESTIVAL” had a blue background, while the others were white. So I decided that the ones with white background were “unofficial.”

    Checking the site again today (http://www.castrotheatre.com/p-list.html), I see that all of the UA programs have blue backgrounds. It all appears to be a web site design error.

    In retrospect, I should have fact-checked this with my Castro press contacts before posting. I think I’ll rectify that now and make them aware of the post.

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