Film festival is entertaining

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2008

Families that are looking for fun on a Saturday afternoon seldom turn to local movie theaters if they have small children. With only two theaters in the area, each with two or three screens, kids' films are relatively few and far between. But that may change.

The Triumvirate Theater hopes to remedy that situation by bringing well-known family films and independent children's films to their big screen at the Peninsula Center Mall. The Kids First Film Festival opened in Soldotna on Saturday with a showing of the 2006 film "Labou" and will continue again next Saturday at 4 p.m. with a double feature of "Hamlet's Horatio" and "The Land Before Time: The Wisdom of Friends." The price of admission is $3 per person.

"The two theaters that we have in town only get children's films in every so often," said Joe Rizzo, co-owner of the Triumvirate Theater and president of the Alaska Children's Institute of the Performing Arts. "The nice thing about this is there'll be a consistent venue where children's movies are being played."

Rizzo said Utah filmmaker Ryan Cannon referred the Triumvirate Theater to Kids First, a Coalition for Quality Children's Media program that rates and endorses films and TV shows geared toward kids. The Triumvirate Theater's 2006 film "Baranov's Castle" was accepted into the Kids First Film Festival, was later sponsored and the Triumvirate Theater was able to become a member with an opportunity of showcasing Kids First-endorsed films at its venue.

Chris Jenness, co-owner of the Triumvirate Theater and treasurer of the Alaska Children's Institute for the Performing Arts, said if attendance is good, the theater hopes to show a film every Saturday. He said many of the films endorsed by Kids First are well-known Hollywood films such as "Alvin and the Chipmunks" and "Charlotte's Web," but there are a lot of independent features and short films. For example, "Hamlet's Horatio" is between 20 and 25 minutes long and tells the story of Shakespeare's Hamlet from Horatio's point of view. Jenness said it utilizes both puppets and live action.

"Some of them will be bigger Hollywood movies, (but there will) also be some that nobody would get a chance to see otherwise," Jenness said. "Movies that are relatively obscure and wouldn't be carried by the local video store are made by independent filmmakers."

Jenness said the film festival coincides with the Triumvirate Theater's mission to provide performing arts education for the youth of the central peninsula. He said there are a few film festivals in the area, but not many that cater to kids.

Jenness said the Triumvirate Theater will be able to order more films from Kids First and even mentioned the possibility of having the Kids First catalogue at Saturday's screening so kids and their parents could make suggestions as to what they'd like to see next.

Kids First's entire catalog of films aren't all available at once, Rizzo said. But parents can look on the Kids First Web site to see what's available and read reviews written by both parents and kids. Other films the Triumvirate plans to show are "Alvin and the Chipmunks," "The Seekers" and "Her Best Move".

For many of these films, the Triumvirate's film festival may be the only chance kids will ever get to see them on the big screen. Some of them have never been shown on a big screen, Rizzo said. He said when he was a kid he was certain the VCR would be the undoing of the movie theater, but he thinks people enjoy sitting down with a bunch of other people to watch a movie.

"(It's) almost like you would watch a play. You're enjoying the reaction of the people around you as much as you enjoy the film," Rizzo said. "We just have to get the community into the habit of coming down to a movie on Saturday afternoons. Once that happens we'll be able to show a wide variety of children's films that are going to teach some real important lessons and expose kids to some innovative filmmakers."

Jessica Cejnar can be reached at

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