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84AFI Silver Theatre, Silver Springs, Md.

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  • hawaiiguy123155
    Jan 16, 2004
    • 0 Attachment
      Jan. 14, 2004
      Facility helps usher visitors into
      downtown area

      The American Film Institute's Silver Theatre and Cultural Center is
      living up to its promise to reel visitors into downtown Silver Spring.

      The Silver Theatre has been the "catalytic agent for a lot of other
      change occurring here," said Peter Esker, chairman of the Silver
      Spring Citizens Advisory Board, at a Monday night meeting held at the
      theater, which he called the "stellar achievement of redevelopment of
      Silver Spring."

      The Silver Theatre, a 1938 art deco movie house designed by John
      Eberson, closed in 1985 but underwent a $20 million rehabilitation as
      part of Silver Spring's downtown redevelopment. Once a 1,100-seat
      movie house, the building now features one historic theater and two
      stadium-style theaters, as well as a café, office, meeting, reception
      and exhibition space. It is owned by Montgomery County and operated
      by the American Film Institute.

      In the nine months since the theater reopened, about 100,000 guests
      have entered the building to see a variety of films, said Ray Barry,
      deputy director of the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center. "We've
      achieved much of what we wanted to."

      Financially, he said, the theater is "hitting targets," based on
      conservative goals set for the theater's first year. And although the
      guest number is "about exactly what we expected, we'd like more. We'd
      definitely like more," he said.

      Since the theater opened, 6,000 people have also become members,
      which was "wildly beyond any expectations," Barry said.

      Based on anecdotal evidence, Barry said he believes the theater has a
      regional draw, but plans to do a ZIP code survey this year to confirm
      that theory.

      The theater staff had several goals it wanted to achieve, including
      excellence in programming, educational initiatives and being a part
      of the Silver Spring community, Barry said, adding that, so far,
      those goals have been met.

      The programs the theater has shown have been diverse, ranging from
      classics to foreign films and current releases like "Lord of the
      Rings," he said.

      "We also launched Silverdocs, an international film festival, in
      partnership with Discovery [Communications]," Barry said.

      Silverdocs showed a variety of documentary films, including works by
      local filmmakers, and drew about 25,000 people for its community day
      that featured a skateboarding demo on Georgia Avenue by professional
      skateboarder Tony Hawk, as well as other skaters from his Boom Boom
      Huckjam tour.

      Silverdocs was so successful that AFI and Discovery plan to hold
      another major film festival like it this June in hopes of drawing
      more visitors from out of the area and possibly achieving an
      international status, Barry said.

      The theater also has had other modes of community outreach, including
      several open houses when the facility opened. And a Latino film
      program and a mid-Atlantic regional film showcase has spotlighted
      local filmmakers, as well as other smaller festivals, Barry said.

      "A friend of mine had a film festival here. It went off marvelously,"
      said Korey Hartwich, a member of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory
      Board.

      The theater has also begun a number of educational initiatives, Barry
      said. AFI has been working with Montgomery College's Takoma Park
      campus to offer part of the college's introductory film course at the
      theater, and has also launched an educational program that currently
      targets ninth- and 10th-grade students, though it eventually may be
      offered to the kindergarten through 12th-grade.

      Within this program, youths can come to the theater and experience
      the cinema firsthand, and teachers can get assistance in selecting
      films for their classes, Barry said. The education program was
      launched in November 2003.

      The theater also has brought in several guest filmmakers--both
      celebrities and undiscovered artists--to speak in front of an
      audience about their works, Barry said, citing Clint Eastwood and Eli
      Wallach as two of the more prominent filmmakers to visit Silver
      Spring.

      "We're looking forward to redevelopment in the rest of the
      community," Barry said.
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