Photo courtesy Virginia Bertholet
Co-producers (from left) Dean King, Virginia Bertholet and Isaac Regelson.
If the Byrd Theatre’s construction had been delayed later than its 1928 completion and the innovation of movie sound, a massive Wurlitzer organ might not have been necessary. Then, too, the beginning of the Great Depression, with the 1929 stock market crash, could have prevented the building of the neighborhood movie palace. But cinema builders and managers Charles Somma and Walter Coulter got their timing right. And so did the makers of a 52-minute documentary about the Byrd that’s included in a six-part French television series called Cinémas Mythiques (Mythic Cinemas).
The documentary, by French director Jean Achache, will be screened at 10:25 p.m. Saturday, March 28, at the 23rd French Film Festival, taking place at the Byrd in Carytown. Achache is scheduled to present and discuss the film, which is co-produced by Virginia Bertholet, of Richmond-based Bertholet Integrated Content, and Isaac Regelson, who does location scouting and management, and narrated by local author Dean King. Achache had approached Regelson about the project during the 2013 festival.
Shot in late December, the film is wrapped around the decades-long love affair not just of Richmonders with the movies, but also the devotion of caretakers such as the late Miles Rudisill, who died at age 91 in August 2014. The filmmakers had recorded his memories just two months earlier, in June. The theater’s present steward and manager, Todd Schall-Vess, is featured at the theater and in his apartment across the street. “You have to have someone like Todd to run a place like the Byrd,” Bertholet says. “It’s such a huge part of his life.” Community members also shared memories of first dates and marriage proposals at the Byrd.
Besides the Byrd, the series includes theaters such as the Punta Arenas in Tierra del Fuego, established in 1902 by adventurers who filmed indigenous people in a pioneer town at the tip of South America; the Eros of Mumbai, India, an Art Deco theater that opened in 1938 and gave birth to the “Bollywood” film industry; and the Lucerna of Prague, in the Czech Republic. Opened in 1909, the Lucerna was used by the Nazis and Soviet occupiers to celebrate victories and later to announce Czech independence. The series is not yet available for viewing in the United States.
“The film speaks in a deep way about the connection of the community to the theater,” King says of the Byrd documentary. For a screening schedule and other details, visit frenchfilmfestival.us.