Antique cars, live piano music, and the smell of fresh popcorn were found in front of the Melba Theater this past weekend as they held their second annual anniversary event.
Plush red carpets bearing the Melba logo stretched out over 40 feet of the sidewalk with silver stanchions and red velvet ropes leading the way to the ticket booth. Actors from the Batesville Community Theater were on hand in 1940s attire to add to the ambiance. Some were seated on a white couch in front of a backdrop while others were gathered around an antique upright piano to recreate a scene from the weekend’s featured film, Casablanca.
Moviegoers began lining up before doors were scheduled to be open. A photographer was on hand snapping photos of individuals, couples, and families as they came dressed for the occasion. Local seamstress and owner of D & D Creations, Amanda Wentz, arrived wearing a dress she altered specifically for the event.
“I needed a dress for the Casablanca showing at the Melba, so I took this dress that had long sleeves and a choker style neckline…and made it into short sleeves and altered the neckline which better suited the time period,” said Wentz. Her husband and sons were wearing gentlemen’s style vintage hats and suspenders. Wentz also used her expertise to create red movie usher’s jackets worn by the Melba employees. Ladies wore flapper dresses and feather hats while men donned tuxedos and trench coats. It felt like the 40s were alive and well this weekend in downtown Batesville.
Guests enjoyed pre-show entertainment by some members of the Lyon College jazz band, as well as Nick Fudge singing along with Mike Foster on the keyboard. With vintage suitcases decorating the stage and food tables, guests were offered Moroccan and American treats such as meat cigars, goat cheese truffles, and orange bundt cake with chocolate accents. Neighboring Main Street restaurants, BIG’s and Elizabeth’s showed support by donating gift certificates that were awarded to a handful of attendees. The Melba also drew names for three annual passes, to the theater, which are redeemable for 52 general admission movies and retail for $99 each.
Theater owners, Mandi and Adam Curtwright and Janelle and Joe Shell, greeted guests and thanked them for attending. They shared acknowledgments the theater has received over the past year: Honorable Mention for “Excellence in Personal Projects” presented by Preserve Arkansas and “Member of the Year” from Ozark Gateway Tourist Council. They also mentioned the League of Historic American Theatres (LHAT) requested they host a session on their ‘Very Melba Christmas’ series at the LHAT Annual Conference last month in Texas.
Casablanca has been regarded as one of the greatest movies of all time and certainly did not disappoint those who were able to see it on the big screen. The crowds clapped as the movie ended and the lights came back up. Folks were all smiles as they exited to the neon glow of the Melba sign, quoting lines from the movie such as “Here’s looking at you kid,” “We’ll always have Paris” and others that have become so famous. Excited patrons have already started giving ideas for next year’s event.