Tuesday, June 16, was a special day at the Tennessee Theatre – and one that we hope will be repeated in the future. Nearly 800 children came to the Tennessee and were treated to a free screening of the 1971 classic “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” In addition to the movie, the kids enjoyed a healthy snack and a short performance from Dr. Bill Snyder at the Mighty Wurlitzer organ. After the movie, each child received a coloring sheet of the proscenium arch to hang in their room or display on their fridge as a memento of the day.
A daytime movie at the Tennessee for kids is not a new concept. In the 1930s, theatre management organized the Popeye Club, a Saturday morning series full of fun activities and films. Each child even had a membership card! Later, in the 1960s, The Chipmunk Club was formed. An empty bag of Tom’s potato chips guaranteed free entry into that day’s movie, and BoBo the clown often entertained the kids. You can learn more about these memorable experiences (and more) on our history timeline.
We are always looking for more ways to get children into our beautiful theatre. For this Kids’ Movie Day, we partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley and the Knoxville Parks and Recreation Summer Playground program. Many of the kids, aged 5 to 16, stepped into the Grand Lobby and ornate auditorium for the very first time. One boy was overheard saying, “I’ve never been in a fancy place like this before!” Reactions like those make these special events more than worthwhile.
Kids’ Movie Day was made possible by donations to the Tennessee Theatre’s Youth Arts Alliance, a fund that sponsors events and tickets for children. We also had 14 volunteers that came the day before to stuff the snack bags for the kids – a great help!
As Willy Wonka tells Charlie Bucket, “Take a look, and you’ll see into your imagination…” We hope these kids’ imaginations were sparked by their experience at the Tennessee.