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Peace, love and popcorn prevail at Woodstock movie premiere

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CHATHAM–The village was a sea of tie-dye from the green to the Crandell Theatre for the local premiere of Taking Woodstock.

   Director Ang Lee, screenwriter and producer James Schamus, a Ghent resident, as well as Elliot Tiber, the author of the book on which the movie is based, attended the event Thursday July 30, along with other local celebrates, including Oscar-nominated screenwriter and director Courtney Hunt, film writer Peter Biskind and actor Scott Cohen, all Columbia County residents.

   Taking Woodstock, a film about a young Elliot Tiber’s involvement in bringing the 1969 Woodstock Festival to White Lake in Sullivan County, was filmed in and around Columbia County from August to October of last year. Many county residents, who were extras in the film, turned up for the premiere at the Crandell. Calliope Nicholas, a film club member, was decked out in hippy garb for the event. She said she was excited that the locals involved in the film could experience the premiere.

   The Chatham Film Club, which sponsored the event, put down a red carpet outside the theater, where people involved with the film were being interviewed by local TV crews. Crowds gathered on Main Street late Thursday afternoon to watch the goings on and to gawk at the line of movie ticket holders, which stretched to the traffic circle and around the bend onto Kinderhook Street. A second show later that evening was also sold out. Focus Features, which produced the film, sent staff to help arrange the press line.

   Tony Quirino and his wife, Sandy, who own the Crandell, were a big part of the event as well, because the showings Thursday were a fundraiser for the film club, which is trying to buy the theater from Mr. Quirino. Though the business is successful, the couple hopes to retire soon. Film club President Sandi Knakal said that Ms. Quirino was at the theater all day Thursday preparing for the screening.

   “It’s a win/win situation for the film club and the food bank,” said Ms. Quirino, who, like her husband, was dressed in a tie-dye t-shirt for the event. The Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York will receive half of the ticket sales. The film club also sponsored a movie premiere party under a tent on the village green. The proceeds from that event went to the club.

   Ms. Knakal said Tuesday, August 4, that the final numbers were not yet available, but club members believe ticket sales were $22,000, with an additional $7,000 from the tent party. She said the film club has now raised “just short of $350,000” toward its $1.5-million goals of buying the vintage, single-screen theater, money that includes last week’s events, plus additional pledges and donations; The food bank will receive $11,000 from the ticket sales.

   The 8:30 p.m. second screening Thursday, like the 6 p.m. local premiere, filled all 530 seats. Ms. Knakal said that 40 years ago the Woodstock Festival taught the country about community and “premiering Taking Woodstock at our beloved Crandell is all about community.”

   Mr. Lee also spoke at the screening, saying he had the time of his life making this film. “We got nothing but great vibes, good will and help,” he said of filming in the area. Talking to reporters on the red carpet earlier that day he said returning to Columbia County for the premiere renewed his interest in looking for a second home here.

   Mr. Lee and Mr. Schamus, who is also CEO of Focus Features, both talked about how grateful they were to all the local extras who helped them recreate the half-million or so young people who came to the festival in 1969. Mr. Lee said that it was less expensive for the filmmakers to use real people than computer-generated imagery for this film. But he and Mr. Tiber both talked about having to send the extras and the stars to “hippy camp.” Mr. Lee said he wanted the actors to “carry themselves right” for the area.

   Mr. Tiber said he visited the set on the first day of shooting and was impressed by how much this county was made to resemble Sullivan County at the time of the concert. He also complimented Mr. Schamus for capturing the humor of the tale in his screenplay. “It’s very uplifting,” Mr. Tiber said of the movie.

   Many people at the screenings wore costumes or items reminiscent of the period, and the organizers supplied a tub full of typeset plastic placards bearing slogans from the period–give or take a few years–including “Give Peace a Chance.” Some of those waiting on line at the theater waved the placards, which were dutifully returned when the line began to move. Along Main Street, shop windows had hippy themes.

   Ms. Nicholas said that the film club learns something new at every event the club hosts. “It’s a pleasurable learning curve,” she said.

    For more information about the Chatham Film Club and the Crandell Legacy Campaign go to www.thechathamfilmclub.com. To find out what is playing at the Crandell Theatre go to new website at www.crandelltheatre.com
 

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