Dustin Hoffman in "Tootsie."

Three free classics to raise money for Sierra

Theater will also open ‘Avengers: Endgame’

By ANDREW MCGINN

a.mcginn@beeherald.com

Nancy Morris knew how to pick ’em.

Before she lost her fight with cancer in 2017 at age 66, the longtime Jefferson resident left behind a list of films she’d like to see light up the screen during Classics Week at the Sierra Community Theatre.

Her list included three movies about people defying huge odds.

Those three films — “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” “Tootsie” and “How the West Was Won” — will be shown free of charge April 19-25 to raise money for the community’s scrappy, single-screen theater.

Because of a restroom remodel at the theater, Classics Week was put on hold this year and will be replaced by Let’s Make it Reel, a fundraiser that looks and sounds an awful lot like Classics Week thanks to the Nancy Morris Memorial Fund.

“Nancy was a good movie-goer,” Sierra manager Sarah Nicholson said. “It’s nice to put her name on the screen before the show. She did this.”

Morris left money to the Sierra when she died. That money is being used to show the three classics — classics Morris picked.

“We have this working list of films she’d quite enjoy,” Nicholson said.

Thematically, the Sierra couldn’t have asked for a more fitting list.

In today’s world of multiplexes with recliners and 24-7 home streaming, the Sierra is defying stiff odds as well — somehow, a single-screen theater that has been showing movies continuously since 1916 is still thriving.

Nicholson credits the community.

“We really want them to know we appreciate what they do,” she said. “It means so much.”

In fact, under community ownership, the Sierra is more of a first-run theater than ever, recently snagging the rights to open “Captain Marvel” and “Dumbo.”

The year’s most anticipated blockbuster, the three-hour “Avengers: Endgame,” will get a special, 10:30 p.m. premiere April 25 — not long after the credits roll on the final showing of “How the West Was Won.”

Let’s Make it Reel will open at 7 p.m. April 19 with “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” the 1964 Debbie Reynolds musical about a woman who survived the Titanic.

An open house from 5 to 7 p.m. will precede the April 20 showing.

Also before the April 20 show will be a talk with local movie buff Mike Piepel and other entertainment.

Donations collected throughout the week will go toward the summer kids’ film — a first-run family movie shown free of charge — and other future projects.

One possible project, Nicholson said, could be the remaking of the former Masonic Lodge above the theater into a co-working space.

With Pillar Technology moving in right next door this summer, a co-working space above the Sierra could be a prime spot to attract budding entrepreneurs in need of an incubator.

Plus, the space has character.

“There are bulbs that look like Edison made them,” Nicholson said.

The schedule for Let’s Make it Reel:

April 19-21 — “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”

Debbie Reynolds landed an Oscar nomination for the title role.

Showtimes are nightly at 7, with a 2 p.m. matinee on April 21.

April 22-23 — “Tootsie”

Dustin Hoffman earned an Oscar nomination for his 1982 portrayal of an unemployed actor who becomes a TV sensation only after he dresses as a woman to get a part on a daytime soap.

Showtimes are nightly at 7, with a 2 p.m. matinee on April 23.

April 24-25 — “How the West Was Won”

They don’t get any bigger than this 1962 tale of westward expansion spanning the 1830s to the 1880s.

Like, literally.

It was made in Cinerama, meaning that it originally was shown on a huge, curving widescreen. It took three synchronized projectors, each showing a third of the movie, to play it.

The format was a short-lived attempt to lure people away from TV.

The all-star cast includes James Stewart, Debbie Reynolds, Gregory Peck and Henry Fonda. John Wayne makes a cameo as Gen. Sherman.

Showtimes are nightly at 7, with a 2 p.m. matinee on April 25.

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