Sunday afternoon, Carolyn Clark was at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center to do something she remembered doing at the theater as a child: watch a movie.
Stormy Weather (1943), which was Sunday’s feature, “did not play in the regular theater,” Clark said. Growing up, she had to go to theaters in black communities to watch movies that focused on black culture.
In addition to hosting music greats including Count Basie and Ray Charles during its original run from 1948 to 1963, the Lyric was known as one of those theaters. And for the past five summers, it has celebrated that history with a summer film series of classics from the recent and distant past.
The Lyric Theatre kicked off its 2016 Summer Film Festival earlier this month, and it will last until July 31. The film series is free and will feature eight movies.
Tim Small, the education and marketing coordinator at the Lyric, and the organizer of the series, said the series is in keeping with the theater’s original function and purpose.
“When we reopened, one of the things we wanted to pay homage to as well as being a musical destination and a hub for the community is honoring those roots as a film house,” Small said.
So far this season, the Lyric has shown Imitation of Life (1959), The Butler (2013), and Stormy Weather (1943).
Viola Clements, a Lexington native, was at the the Stormy Weather showing on Sunday and was moved by the experience.
“It reminds me of a long time ago,” Clements said. She remembers coming to the Lyric in 1949, only a year after it opened.
“I came for a movie. I think it was a Western,” she said.
The Lyric’s website says that originally it was a “thriving entertainment centerpiece for Lexington’s African-American families,” and its directors aim to fulfill that role today..
The Lyric board of directors choose the movies, but residents may submit any film ideas in the suggestion box.
“Highlighting films that we think are inspirational” is a key factor in determining which films will be shown, Small said. “Celebrating the grand achievements of African-Americans, whether it be actors, directors, musicians, composers,” is the focus of the series.
The feature July 10 will be Lilies in the Field, starring Sidney Poitier, who became the first black actor to win an Academy Award for best actor. The series concludes July 31 with 12 Years a Slave, which won three Academy Awards in 2014, including best picture.
This Sunday, the feature is The Wiz, a beloved 1978 take on The Wizard of Oz starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson that returned to pop culture consciousness after a live production of the musical last December on NBC.
If you go
Lyric Theatre Summer Film Series
When: June 5-July 31
The Wiz: 3 p.m. June 26
Lilies of the Field: 3 p.m. July 10
Selma: 3 p.m. July 17
Lean on Me: 3 p.m. July 24
12 Years a Slave: 3 p.m.
Where: 300 E. Third St.