"I think people were a little skeptical of us because we were a couple of young guys from out of town," says Matt Gerding, "but in our first few months in business we brought some impressive acts to town, and we're pretty proud of it." The co-owner of the Majestic Theatre announced Tuesday that the downtown landmark is marking its 101st birthday on Saturday with a movie and some egg nog. There will be more flicks there in the New Year, moreover, with Gerding and Scott Leslie working to prepare the theater as a possible venue for the 2008 Wisconsin Film Festival.
"We're hoping to be included as a theater for film fest, and as a location for the post-screening parties," says Gerding. Both he and Leslie have been speaking for some time with festival director Meg Hamel about the possibility that the Majestic return as an official venue for the film fest's tenth birthday.
Hamel explains that whether or not this can occur depends upon the desire of the theater's owner to step into that role, as well as the screening requirements of the fest. The first element is no problem. "We want to be involved as much as the festival is interested," declares Gerding, "and as far as our technical set-up will allow us."
It's this second factor that will determine the Majestic's viability as a festival venue. For the Brew 'n' Views, the theater is screening DVDs from a video projector onto a small drop screen that is lowered into the stage proscenium. What the festival could really use, though, is another location for screening film as nearby venues like the Bartell and Monona Terrace are already dedicated to video.
"As a film festival, we want to remain committed to showing as many things on 35 mm film as we can," says Hamel. "My interest in screening at the Majestic is so we can screen more films on a projector."
The Majestic still has its old film projector, last used regularly in the early years of the festival. "We had it looked at a few weeks ago, but it works," notes Gerding. The theater also has a full-size screen, which is set up as a free standing structure on stage. This is only the first step, though.
'What happens next is that my technical team needs to go take a look at the projector," says Hamel, something that is done with every venue. "I'd like to see a film screened there, to look at the sightlines with all of the structural changes there." This isn't going to happen right away, though, as she is immersed in programming for the festival while Gerding and Leslie are only getting started with film screenings at the theater.
"So far nothing has happened that would prevent us from partnering with them this year," says Hamel. "I have my fingers crossed that the Majestic can come back as a festival theater."
If Gerding and Leslie can get things rolling, it will be yet another step in restoring the King Street theater as a major downtown entertainment venue. Since opening in September, the Majestic has staged 28 concerts, brought back a weekly dance night with DJ Nick Nice's Soundlab, and has started regularly hosting parties like HalloQueen and the upcoming New Year's fete. Last Wednesday, the theater's inaugural Brew 'n' View featuring The Big Lebowski unexpectedly sold out.
The next Brew 'n' View is on Saturday, December 15, which will also serve as an anniversary party for the theater's opening in 1906. They will be screening National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, serving egg nog, holding an ugly Christmas sweater contest, and will grant free admission to anybody bringing a gift for Toys for Tots.
"We don't really plan on doing a lot of film events, but this series will feature cult classics and a party-type atmosphere," says Gerding. For example, a Brew 'n' View in January will feature Saturday Night Fever with disco nonet Gerding and Leslie hope they have exorcised some old demons from the theater. "We feel that all of the concerns based around the last incarnation of the Majestic are being put to rest, and we can move on and do our own thing."
Gerding and Leslie hope they have exorcised some old demons from the theater. "We feel that all of the concerns based around the last incarnation of the Majestic are being put to rest, and we can move on and do our own thing."