More than movies

John Travolta waves to fans before a special screening of his upcoming movie “The Fanatic” at the Barnstorm Theater in Brownwood.

At The Villages Movie Theaters, people can catch more than just a movie. Walk into any of the three movie theaters, and you might just step into a red-carpet event, a Q&A session with a film director or a live wrestling ring.

Rialto Theatre, Old Mill Playhouse and Barnstorm Theater are connecting with the community through interactive events and special guests.

“We want The Villages Movie Theaters to be a destination not just for our residents, but also for our guests,” said Deborah Mills, operations director of The Villages Movie Theaters.

From a recent John Travolta appearance at Barnstorm Theater to an upcoming ballet series at Old Mill Playhouse, there’s always something going on for everybody at the movie theaters in The Villages.

“We try to keep a lot of activity in the theaters because we should showcase what we have to our residents, but also to the rest of the world,” Mills said. “We’re somebody to keep an eye on.”

Going Big

In February, WWE Hall of Famer Dory Funk Jr.brought a live wrestling ring to Barnstorm Theater for a benefit show that raised money for local humane societies and Champions for Champions, a nonprofit organization that serves people with special needs by providing programs in education, sports, life skills and more.

Guests got to attend a meet-and-greet with Funk, as well as an advance screening of the movie “Fighting with My Family.”

“Who has a live wrestling ring in a movie theater?” Mills joked. “But if you can dream it, then you can do it.”

In August, Barnstorm moviegoers were wowed again when movie star John Travolta appeared for a surprise red-carpet event in promotion of his latest film, “The Fanatic.”

Having an A-list celebrity visit one of The Villages Movie Theaters was a big milestone, and Mills hopes that Travolta’s visit will encourage more celebrities to visit for their own special events.

On Sept. 20, Old Mill Playhouse is going over the top with a “Downton Abbey”-themed event for the one-time showing of the “Downton Abbey” movie.

The event will include a tea party, live music, trivia and prizes before a screening of the movies. Attendees are welcome to dress up at the event, which is already sold out, even with the addition of a second screen.

“We want people to have a good experience when they come here, and we want to show that we enjoy having them here,” said Cindy Wolfe, assistant manager at Old Mill Playhouse.

Community Outreach

The Villages Movie Theaters also use special events for good causes.

In September 2018, a red-carpet premiere of “The Healer” was held at Barnstorm Theater. The event was a fundraiser for Camp Boggy Creek, which provides chronically ill children and their families with fun experiences and activities.

Last year, Rialto Theatre started screening shows from the Metropolitan Opera House and was met with so much enthusiasm from The Opera Club of The Villages that the theater partnered with the club to help with the group’s Harold Schwartz Music Scholarship.

Proceeds from the shows will go to the club’s scholarship fund this year.

“It was such a joy for us to be able to go on Saturday afternoons and see these performances,” said Gerri Piscitelli, president of the opera club. “Over 100 of our members went each month last year.”

Piscitelli said a lot of club members who previously lived in the New York and New Jersey area used to take the train and go to the shows.

“So for them to come to The Villages and be able to see the performances again was the greatest gift,” Piscitelli said.

Plus, ticket prices are good, parking is free and there’s no driving on the freeway, Piscitelli added.

Metropolitan Opera performances will start back up Oct. 12 with “Turandot” and continue until May. Tickets are $25 general admission, $23 for seniors and students and $18 for children. Performances will be held at Old Mill Playhouse this year.

In November, the movie theaters will honor the community’s veterans with a Villages Military Film Festival at Old Mill Playhouse.

The festival, which will run from Nov. 6-10, is in conjunction with Villagers for Veterans and will showcase Hollywood actors and directors as well as a number of military-themed films including “Last Man Club,” “The Deer Hunter,” “Wings,” and “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero.”

Tickets for the festival are not yet on sale, but single movie tickets, a ticket for three films and unlimited tickets will all be available. A VIP ticket, which includes the festival’s opening and closing night ceremonies, a cocktail party, meet-and-greet, the red carpet and a swag bag will cost $100.

Feeding Niche Interests

Whether you’re a fan of boxing or karaoke, you can probably find an event for it at The Villages Movie Theaters.

At 1 p.m. on Sept. 15and 7 p.m. on Sept. 18, Rialto Theatre will host a special showing of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”with a behind-the-scenes look at the writing process of the original motion picture and insight from the original cast for the film’s 40th anniversary.

Starting on Sept. 16, Rialto Theatre will show a series of art movies until December. The films include “Water Lilies of Monet — The Magic of Water and Light,” “Tintoretto: A Rebel in Venice,” “The Prado Museum: A Collection of Wonders,” and more.

For show dates and times, visit the Rialto Theatre box office.

At 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 18, Sept. 26, Oct. 7 and Oct. 17, Scooter the DJ will host a sing-along of the movie “Grease” at Rialto Theatre.

“We know Scooter is very popular with the Villagers, so we thought of him immediately for this,” said Jenna Deafenbaugh, assistant manager at Rialto Theatre.

Audiences will have the opportunity to sing along, karaoke style, with Scooter during the event.

Deafenbaugh said the theaters have been branching out with different types of events because they want to give people as many options as possible.

Rialto Theatre will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the sitcom “Friends” by showing four episodes a night at 7 p.m. on Sept. 23, Sept. 28 and Oct. 2.

Tickets are $15 per night.

At 9 p.m. on Sept. 28 at Barnstorm, boxing fans can attend a live screening of World Welterweight Championship Unification, Spence Jr. Vs. Porter.

Tickets are $25 at the Barnstorm Theater box office.

In addition to the Metropolitan Opera performances, Old Mill Playhouse will also show Opera in Cinema from the World Stage from October to February. All tickets are $12.50 at the Old Mill Playhouse box office.

Also starting in October is a series of Bolshoi Ballet performances, including “The Nutcracker,” “Romeo and Juliet” and more.

Tickets are $15 for each performance.

For more information on upcoming events, visit The Villages Movie Theaters box offices or visit thevillagestheatres.com.

Senior writer Kristen Fiore can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5270, or kristen.fiore@thevillagesmedia.com.