Friday, September 5, 2014

Sept. 4 Press Release

Date: Sept. 4, 2014
To: All media for immediate release
Re: Bijou Film Center presentation at The Byrd Theatre

On Sunday, September 21, 2014, the Bijou Film Center will present a classic film followed by some splendid live music to launch its fundraising effort and begin putting the story of its mission before Richmond's movie-loving public.

4 p.m.: Thirsty admirers of the eye-catching Beatlemania window in Bygones will cross the street to take advantage of a special Happy Hour getting underway at Portrait House, 2907 West Cary Street.  It will offer Fab Four fans a selection of themed drink specials at attractive prices.

6:05 p.m.: From the stage in front of the screen at The Byrd Theatre, James Parrish and Terry Rea will introduce the feature attraction, “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964), which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The sound and picture have been newly restored. And, perhaps a wee surprise will be served up. 

6:30 p.m.: “A Hard Day’s Night,” starring the Beatles in their first movie, will be screened. Shot in glorious black and white the motion picture runs 87 minutes.

8:15 p.m.: At the New York Deli, The Taters will start their first of two sets of live music. Drink specials will be available. And, yeah! yeah! yeah! The Taters will do some Beatles-related material.

Admission to the screening will be $7 at the box office. Up until the day of the show, advance tickets will be available for $5 at Bygones Vintage Clothing and Steady Sounds and online at Eventbrite for $5 plus processing fee ($1.27). 

There will be no cover charge at the Portrait House or at the New York Deli -- free admission!  

The proceeds from the screening will be split evenly by the non-profit Byrd Theatre Foundation’s “Journey to the Seats” and the Bijou Film Center (a non-profit work-in-progress).

  • James T. Parrish, Jr.: Email: Phone: (804) 564-3224.
  • F.T. "Terry" Rea: Phone: (804) 938-7997. 
  • Click here to visit the Facebook event page. 


On Sunday, February 9, 1964, most of the young Beatles fans who tuned in to watch that historic live performance on the Ed Sullivan Show had only been aware of the Fab Four for a month, or so. Only the most avid pop music aficionados knew much about them before their first big hit in the USA, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (B-side: “I Saw Her Standing There”), was released on December 26, 1963. How it came to be released that day is a story for another time.

“I Want to Hold Your Hand” took off like a rocket. It hit No. 1 on the American pop chart just eight days before that first television appearance launched Beatlemania in the USA.

On the other hand, the frenzy had been underway for some time across the pond. The feature film that gathered the Beatlemania phenomenon, to present it on the big screen -- “A Hard Day’s Night” -- was conceived and sketched out before the Beatles left England to conquer America, via the CBS Television network. With Richard Lester as the film's director, the rock ‘n’ roll quartet from Liverpool was working on shooting the movie a couple of weeks later.

Prior to that, here's a smattering of history: In August of 1960 the pre-Ringo Beatles arrived in Hamburg to polish their act; in October of 1961 Polydor released "My Bonnie" in West Germany. In November of 1961 the Beatles began playing regularly in Liverpool’s Cavern Club, among other venues. On their first tour of the UK, in early-1963, the Beatles were on an eleven-act bill, headed up the 16-year old Helen Shapiro. They played a lot of live gigs during 1963, sold plenty of records and became the most important musicians in Great Britain before the year was out.

Now folks might ask, who was Helen Shapiro? On November 4, 1963, at the Royal Variety Show, before actual royalty -- to introduce their cover of “Twist and Shout” -- John Lennon announced, “For our last number, I’d like to ask your help. Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And for the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewelry.”

As for America, the Beatles' timing was perfect. Their peppy, jangling harmonies and harmless, spontaneous sarcasm broke through the fog of depression that had engulfed the USA, following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, just a month before the Beatles double-sided hit 45 was released here.

In the gloom of that winter, 50 years ago, this country surely needed something fresh to lift its spirits. Before or since, there’s never been a popular culture explosion to equal the Beatlemania phenomenon of 1964.

The previous fan frenzies over pop singers in America, such as those that associated with Frank Sinatra in the 1940s and Elvis Presley in the 1950s, had surrounded individuals who sang songs written by tune-smiths in front of sidemen. Beatlemania was something new, it was about a rock 'n' roll band singing in harmony, like gospel singers or doo-wop groups. By featuring the collaborative aspects of the band's sound and image, together with the integral contribution of its two main songwriters, it showed everybody a picture of where pop music was going.

The Movie

“A Hard Day’s Night” (1964): 87 minutes. B&W. Directed by Richard Lester. Produced by Walter Shenson. Cinematography by Gilbert Taylor. Screenplay by Alun Owen. Edited by John Jympson. Cast: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Wilfrid Brambell (Grandfather), Victor Spinetti (the TV director), Norman Rossington (Norm), Kenneth Haigh (Simon Marshall).

During 1963 the Beatles had sent four singles and two albums to the top of the British pop music chart. By the time “A Hard Day’s Night” premiered at the London Pavilion on July 6, 1964, the Beatles were celebrities of the first magnitude in the USA, as well. 

“Beatlemania” had been the original working title of the romp that was released as “A Hard Day’s Night” in Great Britain and the USA (in its first-run dates it had various titles in other countries). Accounts vary about what prompted him to say it, but there seems to be general agreement that it was Ringo Starr’s use of the phrase, “a hard day’s night,” as a wisecrack/malapropism -- that led to it becoming the title of the film.

Instead of just another quick-and-dirty rock ‘n’ roll exploitation flick, the director, Richard Lester, 32, assembled what became a milestone of popular culture history. After 50 years, the movie’s deft anti-authority tilt, with its humor -- both sly and slapstick -- together with its cinéma vérité look and exuberant pace, still holds up nicely.

To shoot this film, Lester guessed that improvisation in front of multiple cameras would work better than a bunch of tedious rehearsals. Lester later noted: “Before we started, we knew that it would be unlikely that they could (a) learn, (b) remember, or (c) deliver with any accuracy a long speech. So the structure of the script had to be a series of one-liners. This enabled me, in many of the scenes, to turn a camera on them and say a line to them, and they would say it back to me.”

Cinematically, Lester captured what was in the air in 1964. He mixed techniques he had used in television with those being used in cutting-edge documentaries. He threw in looks he freely borrowed from the French New Wave.

“I have seen directors who write down a list of scenes for the day and then sit back in a chair while everything is filmed according to plan,” Lester explained. “I can’t do that. I know that good films can be made this way, but it’s not for me. I have to react on the spot. There was very little structure that was planned, except that we knew that we had to punctuate the film with a certain number of songs.”

In crediting Lester with establishing a “new grammar,” movie critic Roger Ebert wrote in 1996: [Lester] influenced many other films. Today when we watch TV and see quick cutting, hand-held cameras, interviews conducted on the run with moving targets, quickly intercut snatches of dialogue, music under documentary action and all the other trademarks of the modern style, we are looking at the children of ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’”

In 1965 “A Hard Day’s Night” received two Academy Award nominations: Alun Owen for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay, Written Directly for the Screen; George Martin for Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment.

After “A Hard Day’s Night” music videos were inevitable.

The Bijou Film Center

The idea to establish and operate a small cinema in Richmond began to percolate in James Parrish’s mind as he worked at booking films and planning events for the James River Film Society, especially its annual festival. Parrish was one of that group’s founders.

While putting together a 2012 fundraiser for the JRFS, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Biograph Theatre (a local repertory cinema, 1972-87), James began to share his movie house dream with Terry Rea, his collaborator for the 40th anniversary project.

Afterward, they continued to talk about the “little cinema” movement and what it would take to create such a venue in Richmond. They decided a small café attached to the cinema would give it a better chance to survive. During their talks Parrish and Rea also spoke frequently of the importance of preserving old films, which eventually led them to explore the idea of starting a business devoted to transferring small format amateur films to digital.

By this time, they began wanting to do something more than create an artsy cinema. And, they decided their dream for a non-profit film center, to do with preserving, producing and exhibiting gourmet movies would have its best chance to thrive if it could be based in the Arts District.

The first of the Bijou at the Byrd fundraisers (we hope there will be more) will set in motion the effort to establish the film transfer enterprise. Advances in the process, going from Super 8 to digital, can liberate those long unseen images -- moving pictures now trapped on plastic three-minute reels -- with better results than in previous years.

The proceeds of this kickoff endeavor will also go into the larger effort to establish a 100-seat movie theater (in a location yet to be determined.) In November a second event, featuring home movies, will be staged to further expose the film center concept to the public, and to help raise money to buy the equipment the film transfer business requires. A Bijou Film Center website will also go up in the fall, to begin to serve as a hub of information about film production and exhibition in the area.


James T. Parrish, Jr. is a fundraiser, artist and leader in the Richmond arts community. He was founder of the Richmond Flicker (1998-2008), co-founder of the James River Film Society. He currently serves as the Director of Foundation Relations for Virginia Commonwealth University.

F.T. "Terry" Rea was the original manager of Richmond’s Biograph Theatre (1972-83). He was the founder/editor/publisher of SLANT (1985-94), a Fan District-based periodical, devoted to popular culture and politics. He is now a freelance artist/writer.


On top of the unsung help several people have provided/volunteered, to help make this fundraising effort successful, eight sponsors have contributed to the project in significant ways: They are: Anchor Studios, Bygones Vintage Clothing, Janus Films, New York Deli, Portrait House, Steady Sounds, Uptown Color, 97.3 FM WRIR Richmond Independent Radio.

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