A single-screen arthouse venue that opened in 1923, The Strand Theatre is showing movies from across the last century all year long to mark its 100-year anniversary. Photo courtesy of The Strand Theatre

Rockland’s Strand Theatre opened in 1923, just as this newfangled moving pictures thing was proving itself something other than a fad. Well, it’s 2023, The Strand is still here, and the venerable single-screen movie house is throwing us lucky Mainers a yearlong party.

The 100 Years of Movies series will celebrate the Rockland landmark’s century of cinematic greatness with a series of throwback screenings culled from the greatest films ever shown at The Strand. A hundred years is a whole lot of celluloid to choose from, but The Strand being The Strand, theatergoers can count on an equal measure of thought and creativity going into the selection of each month’s offerings.

“We all just thought, ‘What a good way to celebrate through the entire year,’ ” said Strand Executive Director Jessie Davis of the genesis of this yearlong film festival. “It just made sense to look back over the hundred years’ worth of films that we would have been showing through the decades. It made so much sense, it was almost like nobody’s idea.”

As Davis explains of the selection of the films for 100 Years of Movies, a simple chronological order for screenings was ruled out in favor of something more fun, evocative and compelling. Each month will see a number of films plucked from over the century and paired according to a theme. This month’s theme is Showbiz Satires, which kicked off on Jan. 7 with the 1928 King Vidor-directed “Show People,” which starred Marion Davies as a starry-eyed ingenue hitting it big in the early days of Hollywood. Coming up on Jan. 28, the theme continues with Preston Sturges’ classic 1941 comedy “Sullivan’s Travels.”

As Strand moviegoers of the time would know, it’s about a well-intentioned “serious” film director (Joel McCrea) convinced he must learn the suffering of the common man in order to create his magnum opus. Dressing as a hobo, and accompanied by a struggling actress (Veronica Lake), the director is summarily subjected to some real suffering (including amnesia), discovering more than he imagined about the tough life outside of Hollywood.

Says Davis: “These are not just the big classics everyone knows, but we took the opportunity to delve into titles and filmmakers who aren’t as well known – but who should be. They’re all films we think are worth taking a look at.” The mammoth task of selecting, pairing and presenting each of the 100 Years of Movies series fell to Strand house manager and film historian Liz McLeod and Turner Classic Movies host (and friend of The Strand) Alicia Malone, who both provide an invaluable wealth of film knowledge to the series, Davis says.


“Liz presented ‘Show People,’ and just from her 10-minute spiel introducing the film, I was able to watch the film through a whole different lens,” said Davis. “It totally enhanced the experience – if you go to every film in the series, it’s going to be like a class in classic films.” To that end, Davis points to the theater’s yearlong pass, called The Big Ticket, where not only are subscribers guaranteed a spot in The Strand’s lavish, 350-seat theater, but will also receive a discounted admission. “It’s a big commitment,” Davis said of the coveted $150 Big Ticket, “but it’s a good one.”

Commitment is something that modern-day moviegoers have largely foregone in the past few years. Streaming, your sofa, that pesky pandemic – all those factors have chipped away at what was once a central and regular tradition for movie lovers in actually deciding to get up and go to the movies. For Davis and the other dedicated people at The Strand, the 100 Years of Movies series is another attempt to remind movie lovers of how special and unique an experience seeing a movie as it was intended can be. Especially when you’re sinking into the plush seats of a lovingly restored, century-old movie palace like The Strand.

“Movie theaters are hurting,” said Davis. “Movies are being distributed differently, and some people are forgoing the theater experience altogether. At The Strand, we show new, indie and arthouse films, but we’re excited to explore the public’s appetite for older films, classic films. It will be great to see if this is an avenue we’ll be able to continue to explore going forward.”

For someone like me, who is still baffled that big, artsy Portland doesn’t have a single-screen arthouse movie theater while the tiny, Knox County city of Rockland most assuredly does, the 100 Years of Movies series is like a sure-fire lure. For one, The Strand is beautiful, the sort of meticulously maintained and preserved movie destination of my dreams. For another, this series, plucked and culled and curated by a handful of knowledgeable and dedicated film folk, is just the sort of creative and imaginative project I can feel in my movie-loving soul.

Davis, citing the previously mentioned vicissitudes of the film distribution business, can only confirm which films will grace The Strand’s big screen some 90 days in advance. But she was kind enough to share the theater’s wish list for this yearlong, decade-by-decade celebration, and it’s a majestic, adventurous roster that has me already reaching for my car keys.

February’s theme will be Unconventional Romances, which, distributors willing, will include one of my favorite films, a beloved intergenerational love story from the 1970s (you can probably guess), plus a certain best picture winner from the recent past about a memorable interspecies romance, which you can probably also figure out. March will see McLeod and Malone choosing a wildly dissimilar pair of movies from female filmmakers, part of what Davis says is the Strand’s ongoing mission to champion the unfairly overlooked people and films from film history.


“For us, celebrating through the whole year is about trying to gain visibility, trying to make sure The Strand can be sustainable, and to have people come out, buy a popcorn and have an experience. The movie theater is an experience.”


You can find out more about The Strand Theatre’s 100 Years of Movies series at rocklandstrand.com. The Big Ticket costs $150 and includes special events, plus cake! Individual tickets for the matinee showing are $8 or $7 if you’re a Strand member, which we all should be. “Sullivan’s Travels” screens on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 2 p.m. For tickets, directions and more, head to The Strand’s website.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.

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