Hollywood On The Bayou
● By Robert Frey
Teche Classic Movies
By Shanna P. Dickens
The romance and magic of old Hollywood is hanging heavy in the air in historic downtown New Iberia. Teche Classic Movies has made the dream of viewing classic films in a venue where they have not been shown in more than 30 years, the Essanee Theater, a reality.
The concept of Teche Classic Movies had been brewing within multiple community members in many forms, but had never been spoken about. Until serendipitously, two lovers of film realized that they had the same dream: to bring classic movies back to the community in the setting these films deserved.
“Whether it was my parents’ porch, or my brother Bo’s porch, or my own porch, everything and anything has always been discussed on someone’s porch on Saturday or Sunday mornings,” Phyllis Mata explains of how her own idea began. “Movies were and are always talked about at almost every gathering. During these porch talks, Bo and I always discussed showing old movies at the Essanee Theater.”
Meanwhile, Jason Bayard was also scheming up a way to share his love of film with others in a historic setting. Bayard and Mata had even once discussed starting a movie club. Separately, the pair mentioned the idea of showing movies at the Essanee Theater to IPAL board member Donald “Doc” Voorhies, who gave them each an enthusiastic “Go for it!” Soon after, Bayard, Mata, Lisa Lourd, Charlie Robertson and Bo Belanger began to bring Teche Classic Movies to fruition.
“When they came to us, we thought it was an absolutely wonderful idea,” Voorhies recalls. “They really took the ball and ran with it. They were able to get all of the technology, and they have big plans moving forward. We actually have the old projectors from when they showed movies at the Essanee Theater, and I think that’s very symbolic. Back then, it was a wonderful place to watch a movie, and they’ve proven that it still is today.“
Once given the green light, the team had three weeks to bring Hollywood to the Bayou. They got permission to show the film Alfred Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest,” created a logo, printed and sold tickets, built a screen, purchased a projector, and of course, built interest and momentum from the community. As they say, “If you build it they will come.” And so they did.
“The reaction from the community was more than we could have ever hoped for,” revels Lourd. “So many locals came to relive their old Essanee Theater experiences and reminisce. Right down to Bo Belanger walking the aisle shining the flashlight at patrons.”
The reaction was so positive that the team immediately started to put together the next event, which will be held on Thursday, October 12 at 7 p.m. In honor of Halloween, Teche Classic Movies will be presenting the 1974 Mel Brooks cult classic “Young Frankenstein.” Admission will be a $10 donation and concessions will be sold in the lobby. All details, including how to purchase advanced tickets, are available on their Facebook page.
“I look forward to our next event on October 12,” Mata exclaims. “I look forward to the thrill of an old movie and enjoying it with a community who supports it. A community who just gets a kick out of the beauty of watching an old movie with friends.”
And that was the dream Bayard and Mata shared…allowing others to see films in a historical setting, on a big screen, with an enthusiastic, laughing crowd of neighbors, friends and family.
“Ultimately, this is an event to enhance our community,” Bayard reasons. “A lot of people have said that they plan to attend every screening we ever do, and I really hope that enthusiasm persists.”