Film festival adds Christmas movie marathon to downtown events

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Following the success of Kilgore’s first independent filmmaking showcase in November, Reel East Texas Film Festival Director Chip Hale doesn’t want to lose the momentum at the Texan Theater.

RETFF’s organizers would rather keep the snow-ball rolling: they’re planning a ‘Classic Christmas Movie Marathon’ featuring “White Christmas” and other retro-holiday films all day Dec. 16.

Admission to the family-friendly seasonal screenings will be free, Hale said; donations will be welcome as the nonprofit film festival uses the event to spur support of ongoing renovations at the historic venue at 225 S. Kilgore St.

The film festival’s volunteers are coordinating with the City of Kilgore and downtown merchants to attract more visitors to the Main Street District for the third December Saturday of ‘Christmas in Kilgore.’

“Downtown always has fun things going on,” Hale said, and Dec. 16 will feature a variety of festivities during ‘Jingle All the Way,’ including a petting zoo and other draws.

Following the film festival, the first time movies had been shown in the theater in decades, crew members immediately began looking to the Christmas season for another opportunity to engage Kilgore residents and out-of-town guests.

“This just matches perfectly with what is already going on downtown. For us to go ahead and add South Kilgore Street to the mix of downtown events and add the Texan to what’s going on, I think is exciting.”

This month marks the second year merchants on Main Street and North Kilgore Street have partnered with City Hall’s Kilgore Main Street Program and the Kilgore Chamber of Commerce’s tourism arm for back-to-back events every week in the downtown shopping core.

Coordinating with Christmas in Kilgore’s volunteer organizers, screening vintage Christmas movies and cartoons will hopefully draw more people to the ongoing events while generating more foot-traffic in the Texan Theater, Hale said, “to let people see what we’re trying to accomplish in concert with the city in regards to actually getting the facility into a condition where we can do this regularly.

“We want to continue being active in the theater. We received really good feedback (during the festival) from a lot of people who were excited to see a movie in there.”

Adding free Christmas movies into downtown’s holiday mix is a brilliant move, said retailer Julie Beck, an “absolutely fabulous” way to draw more people to Kilgore and to entertain residents young-and-old.

Co-owners and operators of J&Co., Beck and sister Carrie Jackson help spearhead the downtown’s Saturday Christmas series alongside other store owners and restaurateurs. They’re eager for any activities that draw more revelers and encourage locals to “Shop Kilgore” throughout the community.

The sisters hosted a brunch for visiting filmmakers during Reel East Texas, and they’re eager to keep the momentum going through a Christmas in Kilgore event.

“We were very excited about the film festival. We were very excited that Chip shared all that with downtown and put it in Kilgore,” Beck said. Continuing the Texan Theater screenings, “I think it’s just going to add another layer of reasons to shop downtown Kilgore.”

From a practical standpoint, she joked, it will give husbands and kids something fun to do while wives and mothers are doing their Christmas shopping downtown.

“I think it’s going to be wonderful. We’re so excited about the film festival screenings – I want to make it where we do that every weekend next year.”

City of Kilgore employees and contractors put a lot of effort into the theater prior to the festival, Hale praised, revitalizing the exterior facade and adding infrastructure within to support the event.

Using funds already set aside for projects at the Texan and Crim Theater, he added, City Hall is fueling activity in Kilgore’s ‘Downtown Entertainment District,’ which includes the Old Post Office, under renovation through Kilgore Historical Preservation Foundation.

“We’re going to work on getting some other necessities in the Texan soon as well,” Hale said: “That’s what this is for, a fundraising event where we are going to take donations for some of the things we want to do for the Texan. We have some other events we are wanting to do inside the Texan in February and March.

“The goal is to create a theater atmosphere in there at all times.”

For more information about Reel East Texas Film Festival’s upcoming events, contact Hale at 818-915-2713. To make a donation or support ongoing efforts in the Texan Theater, reach RETFF Producer Steve Shirey at 214-793-8736.

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