The George Eastman House’s Dryden Theater sounds like a stuffy venue for old, dull films.

Surprisingly, the Dryden is the only theater in the Rochester area to still show films like “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” on a wide screen, embedded in an elegant setting.

The Dryden’s programming is nothing but diverse, ranging from the obscure, to comical, provocative, heartfelt, cold and outright bizarre.

Converted from George Eastman’s car garage by Eastman’s nephew George Eastman Dryden in 1951, the theater provides an exciting alternative to the arena of hit or miss mainstream films.

Jim Healy, the Dryden’s film programmer states, “When we arrange a new film series, we try to make the films diverse yet relevant to the community.”

Recently, the Dryden showed “Underground Zero” a series of short films by independent filmmakers inspired by September 11.

Healy feels that films not only create a dialogue about film history but also provide the world at large with the chance to become aware of a variety of cultures.

The Dryden is unique because it also seeks the community’s input about what is to be shown.

In October, the Dryden, as well as other local theaters, will host the ImageOut festival, a showcase of films illustrating gay and lesbian life.

Beginning Oct. 4 and continuing every Friday in October and November, it will also commence its annual series of films concerning labor issues in the world.

Rather than stubbornly show films just because they are obscure or intellectual, Healy says, “My goal is to show good films.”

He explains that although a film may be subversive or unusual, that doesn’t necessarily make it good.

Moreover, modern foreign films like “Amelie” aren’t “beyond the enjoyment of the average moviegoer” just because they have subtitles.

The Dryden Theater boasts some unique features.

Rather than showcase new independent films, the Dryden’s programming consists of a number of series of films with a common theme running for one to two months.

This summer, one theme of choice was films from the summer of 1982.

Currently, one new film series explores the idea of Hollywood, including “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”, as well as older films like “The Last Command.”

Typically, each bi-monthly calendar is composed of roughly 60 percent old films and 40 percent premieres of new foreign and independent fare.

From September to November, Tuesday is silent film night.

The theater hires a pianist to improvise throughout the whole film, reacting to what he sees on the screen.

Weston Berg, a senior film major enrolled in a UR silent film course held at the Dryden says, “It’s interesting because many times the piano player hasn’t even seen the film.”

Although relatively unknown on campus, the Dryden has quite a reputation in the film industry.

It often hosts renowned professionals in the film industry to introduce films that they have been a part of.

Within the past year, James Earl Jones has presented “The Great White Hope,” Steve Buscemi has discussed “Animal Factory” and John Waters presented an evening entitled “Shock Value.”

Asking Healy what upcoming films he is most excited about, he mentions “Hell House.”

This documentary is about fundamentalist Christians who run a haunted house in the south.

Rather than filling it with the traditional images of horror, they create scenes of what they find truly horrifying ? a woman having an abortion or a gay man dying of AIDS.

Healy feels that this film is unique not only because of its unusual subject, but because it succeeds in humanizing a group of people you could easily call disturbed.

The Dryden’s student admission for students with ID is $4.50 at all times.

So if you aren’t up for paying $8 for a Hollywood film you don’t really want to see, the Dryden can offer you a cheaper, much more interesting alternative.

Kenific can be reached at kkenific@campustimes.org.



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