Enjoy a classic movie … for free

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 25, 2010

A free movie at the Natchez Mall Cinema?

Yes, in cooperation with the 21st annual Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration, Natchez Mall Cinema is pleased to co-host two free screenings of the classic comedy, “Steel Magnolias.”

Screenings are at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. today. Because of limited seating, tickets are required. They are available by calling 601-446-1289 or e-mailing Patricia.Knight@colin.edu.

Free tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. If any tickets are still available on Thursday, they will be at the NLCC welcome desk at the Natchez Convention Center lobby.

The screenplay of “Steel Magnolias” is by Robert Harling of Natchitoches, La.. Harling also wrote the play, “Steel Magnolias.”

The story of “Steel Magnolias,” called “the funniest movie ever to make you cry,” is based on the death of Harling’s younger sister, a diabetic.

As her best friend and closest sibling, Harling found it very difficult to cope with her death.

He was advised by his friends to write about his feelings as a coping method. It began as a short story and evolved into a full-length play.

Harling felt it important to include the way the characters utilized humor and lighthearted conversations to assist them in coping with the seriousness of the underlying situations.

He wanted moviegoers to have a true experience of what his family endured during his sister’s hospitalization.

One of the ways he did this was by employing nurses, doctors and other hospital staff who worked with his sister as characters in the movie portraying their real life roles.

The setting for the movie is the fictional small town of Chinquapin, La., which is located in the (also fictional) parish of Chinquapin. The movie was actually filmed in Natchitoches, La.

Released in 1989, the film stars six highly accomplished actresses.

Julia Roberts, playing what is probably her best role ever, won her first Academy Award nomination for the film.

In it she joined other superstars, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Daryl Hannah and Sally Field.

The film grossed more than $83.7 million at the box office and is still a favorite of thousands of people.

One critic wrote, “This movie is part of my permanent video collection, and I never get tired of watching it.

“I am pretty sure the first phrase that comes to mind for most people when this film is mentioned is ‘chick flick,’” he said.

“But, as a male, I happily admit to loving to watch this movie over and over again, not just because of the six charismatic performances by the actresses, but because this film also has one of the funniest screenplays ever written.”

Each of the screenings on Thursday will be introduced by film professor Charles Vahlkamp of Centre College, Danville, Ky.

Robert Harling will speak at the NLCC at 4:30 p.m., Saturday at the Natchez Convention Center, when he wins the 2010 Horton Foote Award for Special Achievement in Screenwriting.

I invite you to treat yourself to a wonderful, free movie at the Natchez Mall. Come early and get a good seat!

Eric Villers is the general manager at the Natchez Mall Cinema.