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Media Life: Film foul-up, boffo box office highlight Auburn’s first movie fest

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Things got rather Hitchcockian this past weekend at the Hitchcock Film Festival. The festival at the venerable State Theater was a big success, with five of the six offerings playing to full houses and creating a real cinemaphile paradise in Downtown Auburn. For the record, “Psycho,” “Vertigo,” “Rear Window,” “North by Northwest,” and “Shadow of a Doubt” played to packed houses while “Strangers on a Train,” a Saturday-morning offering, didn’t but drew a respectable crowd. The weirdness – and Alfred Hitchcock would probably have a chortle or three if he was around to witness it – took place at the Friday night opening. Let Media Life set the scene. The Hitchcock series had been placed on the regional entertainment road map with well-placed mentions in Sacramento newspapers and an on-location visit by KMAX “Good Day Sacramento” personality Mark S. Allen. Allen was back in the evening for the premiere screening to speak glowingly from the stage of the Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center group – the non-profit group that owns the theater and was putting on what amounted to Auburn’s first film festival. Perry King was in the house. He’s the Cool resident and actor who splits his time between here and Los Angeles and has most recently had a meaty role in HBO’s “Big Love.” The audience included relatives of one of the film’s actors, who had traveled from Elk Grove. BIG NIGHT, BIG MIX-UP The house lights darkened and everyone settled in for a Hitchcock classic. The excitement was palpable. The mood buoyant. The film rolled and the title came on the screen – “Shadow of Doubt.” Media Life grew a little uncomfortable. For the past few weeks, this column has been referring to the 1943 Hitchcock thriller as “Shadow of a Doubt.” Then the onscreen action started and things began to unravel like one of those queasy dream sequences Hitch is famous for. Instead of “Shadow of a Doubt,” starring Joseph Cotton, the puzzled audience was watching 1935’s “Shadow of Doubt,” starring little-known-but-very-suave Ricardo Cortez. It was one of those one-in-a-million – maybe a billion – moments where the terror was taking place in the lobby instead of onscreen as the arts center group scrambled to come up with a Plan B where no Plan B existed. With the perspective of a few days and a few sold-out shows over the weekend for other Hitchcock offerings behind her, APPAC’s Janis Wikoff could look back on a “Frenzy” of hurried suggestions that night to deal with the onscreen mix-ups and an outcome that left no one going “Psycho” in the crowd. Wikoff gamely took to the stage and asked for a show of hands to gauge how many people would like to continue watching “Shadow of Doubt.” Whilst not being a classic, it did fit the 1930s ambience of the 80-year-old theater. About half or so of the audience members were willing to stay. At that point, everyone else was free to leave, with the promise that they could return later to watch the real reels of “Shadow of a Doubt.” REAL 'SHADOW' WILL BE SHOWN That will happen with “Shadow of a Doubt” showings at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. June 26. Returnees can RSVP and get reserved seating. Wikoff double-checked to see if the Auburn group had made a mistake when it ordered the film from Warner Brothers and was relieved to find that “Shadow of a Doubt” was on the signed agreement. “Warner Bros. was very apologetic,” she noted. The State Theater, with its resurrected 134-seat performance space and big, bad 35-milimeter projector, barely has time to catch its breath these days. Saturday, May 1 brings to town The Waymores for an onstage event at the State. The alt-and-back country trio features Grammy winner and hitmaker-to-the-stars Don Henry. He’s written sons for the likes of Ray Charles, Conway Twitty and, most famously, Kathy Mattea. MORE TO COME A week later, the Auburn Symphony Chamber Players will provide a classical music presence. The May 8 performance is the first step toward what eventually will be the move over from Placer High School auditorium to the Lincoln Way theater by the Auburn Symphony. And the silver screen will light up again, when the State Theater’s ongoing movie series returns Thursday, May 20 with “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” The success on so many levels with the Hitchcock festival has organizers already looking ahead to a possible return engagement. And while nothing is definite, one of the front-runners would be a Clint Eastwood retrospective. Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at 530-852-0232 or gust@goldcountrymedia.com.