How about Newman films at the arts center?

On my way home last week, I drove past the Union County Performing Arts Center where a big crowd of middle-aged women congregated, waiting to see “Menopause: The Musical Out Loud.” It reminded me of the huge crowds that were at the arts center one weekend this summer for an Indian movie.

I drove by Friday night and the arts center was dark. The combination of a dormant arts center on a Friday night and the passing of Paul Newman in recent weeks got me thinking: why not screen a few of his classic films, the kind that almost have to be seen regardless of age or movie interests, like Cool Hand Luke and The Hustler. It’d be timely marketing and it would seem there might be some interest since his passing, not only from those who typically visit the arts center for the likes of Connie Francis, but also some “youngsters” who might be intrigued to see his early work and check out UCPAC.

Of course, with programming planned so far in advance (usually a year for live events), I figured it can’t be done too quickly, but I sent an email to arts center director Sandy Erwin anyway. She seemed enthused and talked about restarting a film series in January when their equipment is ready. Not as timely as in the weeks after Newman’s death, but you figure all the year-end magazines will remind people of his along with other celebrities’ passing in 2008.

I’ve seen classics like Citizen Kane and Easy Rider — so-called “important” films — at the arts center and it’s an enormously better opportunity than watching a DVD at home or catching an edited version on a Sunday afternoon on Channel 11. It hasn’t seemed to be a big draw at least judging by the attendance when I’ve been there for old movies. The arts center has offered double features and timely film weekends around Halloween and Christmas in the past. For an idea of what RR readers would like to see at the arts center, we did a completely unscientific poll back in January.

What do you think? Would you pay $5, $10, even $20 to catch a few Newman films at UCPAC? Hmm, I think the RR poll might make a return to the blog.

By the way, the arts center celebrates its 80th anniversary this month with its first annual gala. Meanwhile, another old-time theater reopens this month in Montclair with Counting Crows, so there’s more competition coming.