World art showing at Villages theater

While you might venture out to the movie theaters to grab popcorn and see the latest blockbuster, in The Villages, audiences can also view fine arts on the big screen like never before. Rialto Theatre is located in what The Villages Movie Theaters Operations Director Deborah Mills has dubbed “the arts district” and “the cultural center.” But, as The Villages’ oldest theater is currently under renovation, Lake Sumter Landing’s Old Mill Playhouse has taken on the Global Masterworks in Cinema program. The program, which came out with a scheduled series of art movies including “The Prado Museum: A Collection of Wonders,” “Lucian Freud: A Self Portrait” and “Leonardo: The Works,” also has plans for a classical music concert series and a Shakespeare festival in the near future.

“We have such great offerings in our community with The Sharon and The Studio, and we just want to be able to offer comparable quality entertainment,” Mills said. “I just think it’s important to know your culture and know your history. It’s what makes us human.”

For some of the art movie titles, The Villages Movie Theaters has partnered up with The Villages Visual Arts Association. Proceeds from those movies go toward the VAA’s scholarship fund. The VAA offers scholarships to well rounded art students in the tri-county area who plan to continue studying art in college.

“It has worked out so well that we decided to continue it,” said Rialto Theatre house manager Craig Wolf of the partnership with the VAA. “It’s really building into a nice program. It’s a niche, and it seems to be growing for us.”

The first title of the VAA partnership and the Global Masterworks in Cinema program is “Leonardo: The Works,” and it opens at 1:30 p.m. today at Old Mill Playhouse. After the show, there will be a live Q&A session with the film’s director, writer and producer, Phil Grabsky.

Tickets for the event are available at Old Mill Playhouse’s box office.

“This is an opportunity to see Leonardo’s paintings in a way that you simply have never seen them before,” Grabsky said. “These days, you can shoot in ultra-high definition.”

Grabsky’s objective was to include every Leonardo da Vinci painting that still exists. There are 22 in the film, which shows the works chronologically and offers details about da Vinci’s life.

Grabsky has appeared in The Villages before during a different VAA event and is thrilled to do another Q&A.

“I learn from talking to the audiences after a film,” he said. “I can see what they’re reacting to. Most people will not be able to see all of these paintings in their lifetime.”

It is for that reason that Village Santiago resident Helen Poor, who works on the VAA scholarship committee, is thrilled with these film offerings.

“Many of our Villagers now don’t travel or feel comfortable traveling to some of these great European museums or art venues,” Poor said. “These movies have been a way for them to experience great art. People have really gotten into these and look forward to the next ones coming. It’s been a wonderful collaboration. We are very grateful to the theater for the support.”

The scholarship committee, made up of artists and retired art teachers, carefully considers each submission before inviting the strongest students in for interviews.

The scholarships are awarded based on how much money is raised and how many students qualify.

Doing this really helps the students open up, Poor said.

“The members of this committee are so good with the kids,” she said. “When they get going and start talking about their art, it’s like magic. They open up and share their dreams.”

And the audience in The Villages for these art-themed films is truly growing, Mills said.

“People are excited about it, because who can just fly to Paris or Rome to see some of these works?” Mills said. “We’ve got stuff that you just can’t have access to with such a vivid clarity. Some of them are even in 3-D. It’s just really exciting to be able to have this at your finger tips here in The Villages. Audiences can see things they might not otherwise be able to.”

When you go to a major art show, they can be expensive and so packed that it’s hard to see the works on the walls, Poor added.

“Mr. Grabsky gets permission to go at night and early in the morning,” she said. “He films them in different angles and with the best lighting. You could never see it that way in person.”

To find out more about the Global Masterworks in Cinema program, visit or the Old Mill Playhouse box office.

Art programs likely will go back to Rialto Theatre once renovations are complete, Mills said.

“They’re doing a demolition and carefully planning their next moves so that it will be just perfect when it opens,” Mills said of Rialto’s renovations. “We’re staying busy. I’m still trying to make sure we have the content and quality entertainment that’s come to be expected, even though we have less screens.”

Senior writer Kristen Fiore can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5270, or