AFI comes to Silver Theater

Dec. 31, 1969, 7 p.m. | By Griff Rees | 51 years ago

The AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center will open in downtown Silver Spring next to City Place in April of next year. In addition to its commitment to showing quality films, the theater is intended to provide a cultural and educational resource for the whole Silver Spring community.

The original Silver Theater was built by renowned theater designer John Eberson in 1938. The theater closed in 1986, and its owner attempted to demolish it a decade later. In response, the Silver Spring community fought to save the theater, prompting county executive Doug Duncan to step in. He asked the American Film Institute (AFI) to take charge of the theater. In exchange, Montgomery County pledged to fund the project.

AFI agreed and in a few months, this state of the art theater will open. It will house three separate sections, each with a screen, a gallery, a café, concessions stands, and a lobby. The biggest will house 400 seats and support 70 mm films. The two smaller sections will hold 200 and 75 respectively. Each screen will be THX certified (a rigorous test of aural quality), and feature a stage.

AFI's twofold mission with the Silver Theater is to provide a balance of quality first-run and historic films and to accompany and supplement them with cultural and educational events. According to Murray Horowitz, director of the new facility, "On any given Saturday night, maybe 30,000 screens are showing the same film." Horowitz and Co. will provide "edgier, less commercial films," which will complement, not compete with, the ubiquitous Blockbuster films.

In addition, the venue will house musical performances and lectures tied to film, many of which will be marketed to kids. "Film has become the way young people get their ideas," says Horowitz. "We want this to be a center where young people can come and have something to relate to."

AFI has partnered with Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and Montgomery College to offer educational opportunities related to film. A Novel Look at Film: Of Mice and Men Viewing Guide is a course designed by AFI for ninth graders now in its second year. After reading the novel, the students then watch and analyze the film (directed by Gary Sinise). Also in the works is a similar course involving Lord of the Rings. At Montgomery College, AFI will offer a workshop in 35 mm film production in May, and a summer camp for ages 15 and up.

AFI has planned other special events and programs. Silver Docs, the biggest ever non-fiction film festival, is set for June of next year. Horowitz hopes to have events for specific groups, such as a Musicals night for seniors and foreign language films because of Silver Spring's "extraordinary diversity." Should the war with Iraq become reality, Horowitz suggested he might show war films or films from Iraq with Iraqi commentary.

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Griff Rees. Griffith Rees was born on a dreary, humid August 17, 1985 at approximately 2:00 in the afternoon. Near the advent of his fifth birthday Griffith underwent a traumatic and life changing experience: he matriculated at Wyngate Elementary School. After six years and precious few visits … More »

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