When great grandma went to the movies

Children's hour of old theaters, films

Staff WriterAugust 14, 2009 

  • What: RCM Children's Hour: Let's Go to the Movies!

    When: 2 p.m. Saturday

    Where: Raleigh City Museum, 220 Fayetteville St.

    Cost: Free

    Details: 832-3775; www.raleighcitymuseum.org

Saturday afternoon, the Raleigh City Museum will do two things: hip kids to the movie-going history of Raleigh, and remind them that it isn't all about cuddly, two-foot, computer-generated creatures.

For its monthly "RCM Children's Hour," the museum will present "Let's Go to the Movies!" during which children can learn how movies are made and how movies were seen in Raleigh during the early 20th century.

To be held at the museum gallery, the event was conceived by Kendall Price, 21, a Meredith College student from Roanoke Rapids who is a museum intern for the summer. She was told she could come up with her own program, as long as it tied into the history of Raleigh. And that's when it hit her.

"It just came to my head that summertime is when all the big blockbusters come out, and kids are out of school," says Price. "And one of their favorite things to do is go to the movies."

While researching, she found that many of the city's first movie houses, such as the Superba (1915-1928) and the Almo (1911-1926), were downtown. "Not only could we talk about maybe the history of movies and how they've evolved, but also about theaters, seeing as how they were right on Fayetteville Street, where our museum is," she says.

Price looked on the Library of Congress Web site for clips of historical films, photographed by such trailblazers as the Lumiere Brothers and Thomas Edison. For contemporary clips, she skipped over to the Disney/Pixar Web site. "I just use those to contrast the new and the old," she says. "Because I figured they would most readily relate to the Disney and the Pixar."

It's meant to educate children about how the images they see on the big screen came to be. "We're going to the earliest animation and trying to explain to children how they've evolved," says Jennifer Litzelman, director of education and outreach. "She's got some clips that are, like, 30-second shorts. .... Essentially, they're home movies. But they'd be considered the earliest movies."

Price wants to show children that making a movie, even a short one, isn't easy. "It almost seems as though video cameras are superfluous now to even making a movie, because you can just sit down at a computer," she says. "This has been going on for over a hundred years, and a lot of time and effort and thought process and great inventions have gone into this. It's not just you go into a movie, you sit down, and you watch it."

Children will be able to create their own moving pictures of sorts: They can make flipbooks after seeing the clips.

If the hour is a success, it could spin off into an exhibit on downtown Raleigh entertainment. "This is sort of a way to gauge if there is an interest from the public in this," Litzelman says.

Maybe parents will enjoy seeing their children learn how movies are made instead of just taking them to the multiplex to see "G-Force" again.

craig.lindsey@newsobserver.com, 919-829-4760 or blogs.newsobserver.com/unclecrizzle

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