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Free Classic Films 1st Mondays at Old Greenbelt Theatre

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Patrons arrive for the January "Monday Matinee" at the Old Greenbelt Theatre.
Patrons arrive for the January “Monday Matinee” at the Old Greenbelt Theatre.

Free Monday Matinees

I’d heard that the Old Greenbelt Theatre’s “Monday Matinees” were a big hit, attracting hundreds of movie-goers, so I decided to check it out. Sure enough, these free screenings of classic films at 1 pm every first Monday of the month are the theater’s most popular series.

So who ARE these martinee-goers? Lots of retirees, even by busload from retirement homes (“quite a lovely partnership,” I’m told), plus assorted adults who are free during the day. Kelly McLaughlin wrote to me that

We hear from folks sometimes because it’s a matinee that if they work from home they come down and watch during their “lunch” break. So we really get lots of different audiences. Beyond that, it’s always free, it’s always the first Monday of the month, and we are always looking for sponsors!! It’s our most popular series, so sponsors get some very good leverage out of it.

“20th Century” and the National Railway Historical Society


I attended January’s Monday Matinee, a screening of the 1934 film “20th Century” with John Barrymore and Carole Lombard. The film is named for one of its prime locales – a historic train, the 20th Century Limited. A website called “Obscure Train Movies” writes that it was the New York Central Railroad’s express passenger train from 1902 to 1967.

So interestingly, this screening was sponsored by the Washington DC Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, [DCNRHS] which seeks to “expand the public appreciation of railroads and their history through preservation and education.” Toward that mission they own and operate the restored 1923 Pullman car Dover Harbor, conduct free monthly public programs, and operate the Martin F. O’Rourke Memorial Railroad Library in Bowie.

As part of its 75th anniversary celebration, the Society is “exploring the relationship between trains and culture, including movies,” according to their website. But how did the sponsorship with the OGT come about? Their librarian Erik Delfino is active in a Maryland History Consortium, where he met Dr. Caitlin McGrath, Executive Director of the Old Greenbelt Theatre. The power of networking!

After meeting Dr. McGrath, Erik explored a partnership between DCNRHS and the Old Greenbelt Theatre, learning that the theatre has a well-developed sponsorship program for organizations such as ours. In particular, the Monday Matinee series was a great fit because it is a free event that serves the local community and also fits within the DCNRHS monthly program format.

Our next movie with the theatre is on June 1st, and the film is “Danger Lights“.

Traveling with the Railway Historical Society

At the “20th Century” screening I got to chat with the Railroad Society folks and learned that it’s been operating a popular rail travel program since 1951. All trips are escorted by experienced DCNRHS members, who participate for free. (Dues are as little as $25/year.)

The chapter’s 1923 Pullman Car, the Dover Harbor, is “beautifully restored to its authentic 1930s appearance and meets all current mechanical and safety requirements.” It’s used for a variety of trips throughout the year – one-day runs to New York City and Williamsburg, as well as weekend package tours to destinations such as Boston, Charleston and Savannah. Even longer trips include Denver, Chicago, New Orleans, and just about anywhere in the Amtrak system.” Who knew!??

Amenities include “freshly prepared, elegant meals from a menu tailored to your tastes. Sit back and take in the scenery, play cards, read, chat, or even sleep in the relaxed comfort of our historic Pullman,” with “car hosts and first-class stewards” ensuring a trip back to a time of luxury travel. Click for trip info.

The trip to Williamsburg caught my eye because it’s organized by a name I recognized – Jos Roozen of Garden Sense Radio. That day trip costs $239, including meals, etc.  

Sponsor a Matinee

I asked OGT’s marketing and development director Kelly McLaughlin about sponsorships and she explained that they
work differently depending on the sponsor, what their interest is, and when we find them relative to the programming. We may hear directly from a potential sponsor and work on finding a film that fits their niche (as we did in this case). Other times we find a film and think of someone who would be a good sponsor, as we did with the American Legion when we brought in “They Shall Not Grow Old.” In that case, we worked with the Legion to fit it into their Memorial Day programming in 2019. Other times, we program something and a sponsor approaches us to sponsor it (as with Old Line Bank and our School’s Out! summer series).
Click “Sponsorship program, on the OGT website for details about sponsorships, including price levels.

Upcoming Monday Matinees

February 3 – The 39 Steps (1935)

March 2 – Top Hat (1935)

April 6 – Casablanca (1942)

May 4 – Father of the Bride (1950)

June 1 – Danger Lights (1930)

Click Monday Matinees for more information about upcoming films in the series.

Follow Susan Harris:
Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that first blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV. Susan launched the video blog "Susan's Hoop Dancing Journey" after trying hula hooping during the 2022 Crazy Quilt Music Festival.

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