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It’s a Wonderful Life everywhere, plus Fargo, Eraserhead, and many holiday classics

December 2021 repertory movie roundup

In
7 minute read
A still from 'It's a Wonderful Life.' A large family gathers together, in black and white.
'It's a Wonderful Life' is screening this month with many chances to catch the classic. (Image by RKO Radio Pictures.)

If you're of a certain age, you likely remember a time when It's a Wonderful Life was on television practically every day during the holiday season. It hasn't been that way for quite a while, but December's programs at Philadelphia-area repertory theaters will remind you of the old days, with nearly daily chances to see the Jimmy Stewart classic in the next 30 days.

Here are the highlights for December, including numerous classics both holiday-themed and not.

Dark Star
Lightbox Film Center, 401 South Broad Street, Philadelphia
Wednesday, December 1, 8pm

The Lightbox’s Weird Wednesdays series continues with this 1974 film, a sci-fi spoof that marked the feature debut of John Carpenter. A project that grew out of one of Carpenter’s student films, the film will be shown in a new 4K restoration from Shout! Factory.

Fargo
Bryn Mawr Film Institute, 824 West Lancaster Avenue, Bryn Mawr
Thursday, December 2, 7pm

Fargo is not a holiday movie, but it is very much a winter one, featuring a thick coat of snow over all of the Minnesota-set proceedings. Joel and Ethan Coen's 1996 masterpiece, which is finishing up its 25th anniversary year, starred William H. Macy as a sad-sack car dealer executing the kidnapping of his own wife, and an Oscar-winning Frances McDormand as the small-town cop bringing him down. Fargo is showing at Bryn Mawr Film Institute in a new 4K restoration and will feature a post-screening talk by Todd Melby, author of the recent book A Lot Can Happen in the Middle of Nowhere: The Untold Story of the Making of Fargo.

Moonstruck
Philadelphia Film Center, 1412 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia
Thursday, December 2, 7:30pm

PFS at the Bourse, 400 Ranstead Street, Philadelphia
Wednesday, December 8, 7:30pm

Cher and Nicolas Cage starred in director Norman Jewison’s much-loved 1987 comedy about what happens when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie. The film is getting two early-December showings at Philadelphia Film Society venues, with the December 2 showing including Throwback Quizzo along with the movie.

The Unknown Man of Shandigor
Lightbox Film Center, 401 South Broad Street, Philadelphia
Friday, December 3, 7pm

The Lightbox is presenting a 4K restoration of the 1967 Swiss film, directed by Jean-Louis Roy. The black and white picture is described as a Cold War-era spy film.

Beauty and the Beast
Bryn Mawr Film Institute, 824 West Lancaster Avenue, Bryn Mawr
Saturdays, December 4 and 18, 11am

BMFI is presenting a pair of December showings of the 1991 Disney animated film of the “tale as old as time,” which was part of Disney’s animation revival in the early 1990s. Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, the film featured the classic, Oscar-winning score from the songwriting team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.

Eraserhead
Carlton Street Tunnel between 11th and 12th Street
Saturday, December 4, 8pm

“Eraserhood Forever,” the occasional celebration of the legacy of director David Lynch and the inspiration he took from his youthful time living in Philadelphia, will return for the first time since the start of the pandemic. In conjunction with PhilaMOCA, the screener of Lynch’s surreal 1977 film Eraserhead will take place in the heart of the neighborhood named for it, the Eraserhood. An afterparty will take place afterward at the Trestle Inn.

Gremlins
The Colonial Theater, 227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville
Saturday, December 4, 1:30pm

The 1984 monster film for kids will have a showing in Phoenixville. Directed by Joe Dante, this isn’t the one that was an extended riff on 80s-era Donald Trump; that was the 1990s Gremlins 2: The New Batch.

All is Forgiven
Lightbox Film Center, 401 South Broad Street, Philadelphia
Saturday, December 4, 7pm

Next on the docket in the Weird Wednesdays series is the 2007 film from director Mia Hansen-Løve, which follows the trevails of a family and, after a time jump, their daughter.

It’s a Wonderful Life
Bryn Mawr Film Institute, 824 West Lancaster Avenue, Bryn Mawr
Tuesday, December 7, 7pm; Wednesday, December 8, 1pm; Saturday, December 11, 1pm

Hiway Theater, 212 York Road, Jenkintown
Wednesday, December 8, 7pm

Ambler Theater, 108 East Butler Avenue, Ambler
Thursday, December 16, 7pm

The Colonial Theater, 227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville
Sunday, December 19, 1:30pm

As stated earlier, there are many chances to see the 1946 Jimmy Stewart classic It’s a Wonderful Life this December. In addition to those, BMFI is running a Cinema Classics Seminar with Jennifer Fleeger, PhD, on December 8.

Ecstasy
The Mac Arts Center, 11 East State Street, Media
Wednesday, December 8, 7pm

The State Street Movie Night series continues in Delaware County with this 1933 Czech film that starred a young Hedy Lamarr. The film will be bookended by both an intro and discussion.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
The Ambler Theater, 108 East Butler Avenue, Ambler
Thursday, December 9, 7:30pm

The third and possibly most beloved of the Chevy Chase Vacation movies is the one where they stay home. The film was directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik and starred Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, and Randy Quaid.

Dial Code Santa Claus
Bryn Mawr Film Institute, 824 West Lancaster Avenue, Bryn Mawr
Thursday, December 9, 7pm

Ardmore’s Viva Video may have closed its doors back in August, but the team behind it—in addition to their involvement with the State Street Movie Night series—is also presenting a screening at BMFI. It’s Dial Code Santa Claus, a 1989 French film about a kid fighting a “psychopath in Santa duds” that is very much in the Viva tradition. Viva’s Miguel Gomez will introduce the film, and also host a discussion afterward.

Elf
The Colonial Theater, 227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville
Saturday, December 11, 1:30pm

The 2003 comedy classic with Will Ferrell as an elf who winds up in New York City is on TV plenty, but it’ll get a big screen showing in Phoenixville.

White Christmas
The Colonial Theater, 227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville
Sunday, December 12, 1:30pm

Another holiday classic, the 1954 picture featuring Bing Crosby lands in Phoenixville mid-December.

Fanny and Alexander
Philadelphia Film Center, 1412 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia
Wednesday, December 15, 7:30pm

Ingmar Bergman’s 1982 film, starring Bertil Guve, Pernilla Allwin, Kristina Adolphson, and Börje Ahlstedt, lands at the Film Center on the 15th, as part of the Film Essentials series.

Arrebato aka Rapture
PFS at the Bourse, 400 Ranstead Street, Philadelphia
Friday, December 17, 9pm

It played at the Lightbox back in October, and now Spanish director Ivan Zulueta’s 1979 horror film comes to the Bourse in a 4K restoration as part of PFS’s After Hours series.

A Christmas Story
The Colonial Theater, 227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville
Saturday, December 18, 1:30pm

Another one that's on TV all the time during the holiday season gets a theatrical appearance. The tale of a kid in the 1940s who really wants a BB gun for Christmas comes to Phoenixville just a week before Christmas.

Batman Returns
The Colonial Theater, 227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville
Saturday, December 18, 9:45pm

The second theatrical Batman movie directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton as Batman had Danny DeVito’s Penguin and Michelle Pfieffer’s Catwoman doing villain duty. It’s showing in 35mm and is presented by the Manayunk comic book store Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex.

Christmas Evil
The MAC Arts Center, 11 East State Street, Media
Wednesday, December 22, 7pm

The final State Street Movie Night of the year will feature this 1980s Christmas-themed slasher movie about a man who’s driven to murder after he discovers that Santa Claus isn’t real. Viva Video alum Dan Santelli will lead a discussion.

Trading Places
The Colonial Theater, 227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville
Sunday, December 26, 1:30pm

And on the day after Christmas, this Philadelphia-shot 1983 classic comes to Phoenixville. A pair of billionaire plutocrats make a stock trader (Dan Aykroyd) and a street hustler (Eddie Murphy) trade places, before the two team up to get revenge.

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