Theaters and other venues may be closed for an indeterminate amount of time forcing cinephiles to watch movies from the safety of their own homes, but it doesn’t mean that they have to watch alone.
The Psychotronic Film Society is moving its long running weekly film series from coffeehouses and cinemas to streaming online every Sunday and Wednesday night at 8 p.m. EST. Founded in 2003, the PFS presents audiences "the widest variety of feature films imaginable, from outstanding award winners to laughably inept duds," earning it praise from the New York Times and regular spots on local "Best of the Year" lists.
"The Psychotronic Film Society has always served to bring both friends and strangers together to enjoy communal, shared experiences in a quiet, respectful and focused manner," explained Jim Reed, executive and artistic director of the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah.
"In all honesty, that’s the reason for the PFS’ very existence! I believe there is something inherently wondrous and special about a group of people – large or small – gathered alongside each other while they each witness the closest thing we have in this world (other than performance art, that is) to a living, breathing work of art. And one that has the capacity to not only entertain and distract but to also frighten, perplex, stimulate and challenge every person in ways that are simultaneously both common to everyone in the room, and yet still completely unique to each individual."
The online viewing party debuted March 22 with a streaming of the rarely seen 1977 Czech sci-fi comedy "Tomorrow Morning I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea" followed by a screening of the ridiculously campy "Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster" on Wednesday, March 25. The first screening drew nearly 100 viewers and Reed expects those numbers to grow, especially since people from all over the world can join the fun.
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Reed wants to keep future titles a secret until the viewing, enticing audiences with only the genre of the next film, the decade it was produced, and whether it is foreign language or not.
"I like the idea of people coming together for a general purpose and not for a specific film, so they can all be surprised, and not have any preconceived notions about what they will see," said Reed. "The whole idea behind this is for people all over the world to watch the films at approximately the same time and then interact with each other in real-time afterward (and perhaps also during)."
"While many of the films I will select are quite rare and hard to find, some are more accessible than others, and if I promote the name of each film in advance, some people will understandably seek it out on their own and watch it by themselves, which then defeats the entire purpose of the project."
Participants can easily take part in the Online Viewing Party by joining the PFS’ Private Facebook Group. Fifteen minutes before each screening, a secret link will be posted on the Group member page leading to a Youtube playlist that includes a pre-taped introduction by Reed, and the evening’s feature film. If every viewer begins the film at as close to 8 p.m. as possible, they can return to the Facebook Group page to join the lively post-screening discussion moderated by Reed.
Although the Online Viewing Parties are free, viewers have the option to make a small donation to the PFS with the click of a PayPal button. Those who donate $5 will earn a digital download of a rare film from the PFS archives and get entered into a weekly drawing for an official PFS t-shirt.
"I am thrilled there exists a mechanism which can be utilized to not only keep the Psychotronic Film Society active during such a difficult time, and I hope that I can quickly develop a fun and easy way for folks who are confined mostly or completely to their homes to either continue to take part in this regular, weekly event they have come to trust and enjoy, or to give the PFS a try after hearing about it in the past but never actually attending one of our public events," said Reed.