One of the many things that makes living in my little village such a real pleasure and delight is the presence of our own genuine small-town movie theatre, located right on Main Street in Wilton's Town Hall. It is a venerable institution, tracing its lineage all the way back to 1912; the earliest days of film itself. Run by movie maven and all-around swell guy Dennis Markaverich, the Town Hall Theatre is a genuine art-house cinema as well as a showcase for the finest of first-run Hollywood. Because it offers a much-welcome alternative to the 3D-Multi-rama-cine-odeon-plex-chock-full-of-noisy-teenagers-$29.95-medium-popcorn experience, it attracts a wide audience from all over the southern part of the state, as well as parts of Northern MA. It is, as you can imagine, a really great place to see a movie -- spacious seats, two separate theatres, fresh-popped popcorn with real butter, and ticket prices that won't force you to take out a second mortgage on the house just to take a family of four to the movies on a Saturday night. What's more, Dennis runs a special program every weekend of old silent films, many times with live musical accompaniment, as well as a "Classic Cinema" screening every Saturday afternoon as a fund-raiser for local charities -- admission is free, and donations to one or all of the charities represented are gratefully accepted.
All in all, The Town Hall is one of the best places there is to really enjoy the experience of going to the movies; even more so when the particular movie in question happens to be one that I'm in. Back in 2010 Dennis announced that he was going to run The Fighter, a really fine film directed by David O. Russell about the Lowell MA-based boxer Irish Mickey Ward, starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Amy Adams, and including yours truly in a two-line don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-me appearance as a British boxing commissioner. Immediately plans were arranged among many friends and neighbors to descend en masse on the Town Hall to see the film. It's great to have even a small role in a movie; it's even better when the movie is a genuinely first-rate one. I tried, when the film came out, to make it clear to all and sundry how really minuscule my participation in the project was; but I also have to say that their enthusiasm and genuine excitement over the whole business was gratifying to me, heart and soul, in ways that are hard to express.
When I finally appeared on-screen, about 3/4ths of the way into the film, even before my filmic doppleganger could toss out the first of his two lines, my own personal cheering section of about 3 full rows erupted in applause and cries of delight. A tad embarrassing, I have to admit, and I suppose that this must have been awfully confusing to most of the other patrons in the theatre; the mystery only deepened for them when my little claque cheered yet again as my name scrolled by in the closing credits. While we were all filing out of the theatre, a woman turned to one of my neighbors and asked what the heck had been going on; she was told that the person walking just ahead of her, contentedly clinging to his wife's hand, was "that guy" in the movie, here in the flesh. Her surprise and delight were wonderful to see; she asked if I were "really a Hollywood movie star;" I replied that, as far as I was concerned, this was far better -- to experience the authentic, wonderful, dear, sweet, kind expression of joy that I felt in being there with all of them; nothing like this would have happened if I were in LA (or New York, or even Boston, for that matter); I'd be just another minor actor sitting in the dark in a room full of strangers. But I don't live in a big city, I live in a small town where friendship means something real and neighbors take their responsibilities to each other seriously; a place that embraces and cherishes its special little movie theatre, understanding that it is emblematic of a way of life that is rapidly disappearing under the crush of the soulless multiplex. My experience in being a tiny part of this really good movie was amplified a hundredfold by the smiles, the hugs, the shouts of "good job!" by these people I love so dearly. And that, my friends, is what it feels like to be a star.