"Movies connect us with each other, the shared experience is very important," film, television and digital media professor Joan McGettigan said.
John Wayne filled the projector screen in Moudy South 164 Thursday night during the screening of "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" as part of the FTDM department's Thursday Night Film Series.
McGettigan said almost every one of the 70 seats in the classroom were filled with TCU students and guests from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The films may be shown on TCU campus, the majority of attendees are visitors, mostly senior citizens, from all over the DFW Metroplex.
“Students have sometimes attended the series, and I'm always glad to see them there, but students are very busy and a lot of classes, including FTDM classes, are held on Thursday nights, so it's not necessarily easy for them to come,” McGettigan said. “A lot of the fans who come on Thursday nights are senior citizens and they enjoy seeing films that remind them of their own pasts.”
Since 1998, McGettigan said she has been running the film series that gives audiences a chance to see classic Hollywood films on a big screen.
Before a movie begins, McGettigan said she introduces the film by sharing behind-the-scenes information about directors, studios and cast members, as well as explaining the historical background at the time.
Virginia Carden, a 1941 TCU graduate, said she recently began attending the series with her friend and fellow TCU graduate Michael Smerick. Smerick, who earned his master's degree in business in 1955, said has been attending the series for about three to four years.
The friends of 60 years agreed that one of the reasons they enjoy coming to movie night is because the event gives them an opportunity to come back to campus and see all the changes that have been made since they attended.
They also said they attend to watch films with some of their favorite stars and learn about what they are watching.
“It’s more than just a screening," Smerick said. "I enjoy hearing the story behind the film.”
Jim Sipiora from Arlington said he has been attending movie night on a semi-regular basis for the past 13 years. He started attending when he saw an ad for the screenings in Fort Worth Weekly.
Sipiora also said he enjoys learning from McGettigan about how the movies are made.
“It’s one thing to go out and buy the film on DVD, but it is not the same," he said. "Sometimes even the special features don’t tell you everything that [McGettigan] does.”
Of the many films in the series that Sipiora has seen over the years, he said his favorite was the film "Seahawk," staring Errol Flynn.
The films shown typically come from the FTDM department’s extensive film library, where McGettigan said she selects some of her own personal favorites and combines them with films requested by those who attend the series.
McGettigan said she tries to promote variety in what she presents.
“I try to include every genre, from westerns to musicals, and to mix up color films with black and white films.” she said.
The Thursday Night Film Series depends on donations from attendees to continue each semester. Money raised helps pay for the public performance licensing fees that are paid to the companies, McGettigan said.
“Although there's no admission, those who can do so, do donate a bit to keep the program going for everyone," McGettigan said. “People have been very generous, and each semester's donations pay for the next semester's movies.”
On average, 35 to 40 people attend the screenings, but as of late, up to 60 people have come to watch the films, McGettigan said.
“People keep coming [to the Thursday Night Film Series] for the opportunity to see them in a group and have a chance to talk about them afterwards. I love these old movies and I have a lot of fun sharing them with other people," McGettigan said. "I've made some very good friends through the series and really look forward to Thursday nights."
For a schedule of upcoming films visit http://www.ftdm.tcu.edu/movies.asp.