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Welles Film Festival honors Woodstock's adopted son

The big-budget films might steal the attention this weekend, but many in Woodstock are anticipating the Welles Film Festival.

In cooperation with Woodstock Celebrates Inc., the newly expanded Woodstock Theatre will play host to four of Orson Welles’ films from the 1940s.

The film fest coincides with a weekend’s worth of events honoring Welles’ history in Woodstock, where he went to school and made his directorial debut 80 years ago as part of the Todd Theatre Festival at the Woodstock Opera House.

“’Godzilla’ has got its own marketing machine, but when we get involved with some of these classics, it becomes fun,” said Mark Mazrinas, marketing manager for Classic Cinemas, which owns the Woodstock Theatre.

“It’s something a little different you don’t normally see at your megaplex movie theaters,” he said. “It makes us unique, and it is unique to Woodstock.”

Running May 16-18, the festival will feature “Macbeth,” “Lady from Shanghai,” “The Stranger” and “Citizen Kane” at the the theater, 209 Main St., Woodstock. Tickets cost $5 a movie.

Organizers sought Welles’ films from the 1940s, and in future events, including a planned celebration of what would have been his 100th birthday next year, likely will show more films.

“There are enough films to at least go a few years of Orson Welles,” said Mazrinas, who studied Welles as a film student and became a fan.“Welles’ films weren’t what you would call box office hits, but I think many of his films have stood the test of time,” he said.

Showing at 7 p.m. May 16, “Macbeth” was filmed in just 23 days and features “Welles’ moody, atmospheric take on Shakespeare’s dark tale.”

At 1 p.m. May 17, “Lady from Shanghai” pairs Welles with Rita Hayworth and Everett Sloan. He plays an Irish seaman entranced by a mysterious and unhappily married beauty.

In “The Stranger,” airing at 7 p.m. May 17, Welles stars with Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young. He also directed the film, a post-World War II thriller about a hunt for a Nazi war criminal, considered the most financially successful film of Welles’ career.

And closing the fest is “Citizen Kane” at 1 p.m. May 18, which is considered Welles’ greatest film. He wrote, directed and stars in the 1941 film, which tells the story of news reporters scrambling to discover the meaning of the final utterance of a publishing tycoon upon his death.

“Some people consider it to be the greatest film of all time,” Mazrinas said.

Question-and-answer sessions will follow each of the films at the theater.

“If you’ve only seen these classics at home, I think it’s always a different experience to see it with an audience and on the big screen,” Mazrinas said. “That’s always the best way. I think that’s how movies were meant to be seen.”

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