Colgate University Bookstore Marketing Coordinator Heather Elia selects books and films for each ‘season’ of the Hamilton Book and Movie Club, a popular program offered in partnership with Hamilton Theater.
(Hamilton, NY – Feb. 2012 ) Heather Elia kicks off the discussion with the Hamilton Book and Movie Club, gathered in the community room on the third floor of the Colgate University Bookstore, across the street from the Hamilton Theater where the group has just finished seeing The Help, this month’s feature in the current Book and Movie Club season.
The group, numbering 19 today, enjoys a light dinner while they digest the film and exchange views on how this film and book compare to an earlier Book and Movie Club feature, To Kill a Mockingbird.
“Both are controversial,” offers Peter Darby. “I grew up during the civil rights era, so The Help really hit home for me.” Darby, a self employed contractor, is a first time participant at the monthly screenings and one of three men in the group tonight. He joined for the varied offerings and lively discussion, even though he admits to not having quite finished the book before seeing tonight’s movie.
“Emma Stone was wonderful as Skeeter,” says Linda Khan, a county foster care supervisor. “So was the woman who played Abileen. Wasn’t she a stage actor, too?” Heather goes to her iPad and quickly reports that Viola Davis won a Tony Award for her stage role in the 2010 production of Fences.
Now in its seventh year, the Hamilton Book and Movie Club is a program initiated by the University Bookstore in partnership with the Hamilton Theater. Both entities are owned by Colgate, which in the last decade has made a major commitment to revitalizing the downtown of this college community of 3,000 residents.
The Book and Movie Club features four ‘seasons’ per year. For each three month season, Bookstore marketing Coordinator Elia selects three books and accompanying movies, centered around a common theme. The theme of the current season is ‘Down South’, featuring The Help, Fried Green Tomatoes and Cold Mountain.
She says the most popular season was “Sibling Rivalry,” featuring Atonement, The Other Bolin Girl and East of Eden. For “What’s Cooking?” several cub members made something from the Julia Childs Cookbook and brought it to the post-film discussion following Julie and Julia, which was featured along with Chocolat and Water for Chocolate.
Members read the featured book in advance, then meet at 5:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month to see that month’s film, followed by discussion at the Bookstore located conveniently across the street. A light dinner is catered by Curtain Call, a sandwich shop located in the Hamilton Theater building.
The Book and Movie Club offers two subscription plans. The Full Subscription includes three books, movie admissions and dinners for a three month season. The Basic Subscription includes movie admissions and dinners without the books. Currently, there are 12 Full Subscribers and 10 Basic Subscribers. Elia says average membership is fairly steady at about 25 or so each season.
“We have a lot of teachers, but overall it’s a pretty varied group including recent college grads and retirees,” says Elia. “The discussion is fun. Sometimes people just jump in and start talking. I try to bring trivia and discussion questions for each discussion.”
Elia cites a few key factors in the success of the program.
“This started out as a free program, but having people buy in is better,” Elia said. “Breaking it up into three month seasons avoids the pressure of committing for a whole year, and is good for snowbirds and others who aren’t here all year long.” She said the weekday timing at 5:30 seems to work well for most.
Eight years ago, the Hamilton Movie House was a fading first run theater with three screens, an absentee owner, peeling paint and an aging furnace. The theater was on the verge of boarding up the doors when Colgate University stepped in to prevent having a vacant eyesore in the center of the village.
Located in an historic 1895 opera house, Hamilton Theater has re-emerged as a vibrant centerpiece of community life, offering not only first run films but a weekly independent film series, European opera, two free children’s series, midnight movies, silent film, free educational programming for area schools, movies under the stars, Sensory Friendly screenings, its own film festival- and a popular Book and Movie Club.
“This is a great example of coordinated programming,” said Elia. “The Bookstore, the theater and Curtain Call all contribute to provide the community with an innovative program not always available in a small community like ours.”
“It’s wonderful,” said Sherry Wright, a regular subscriber as she polished off tonight’s dessert, a Curtain Call brownie. “I love the chance to get together, see the films and discuss with friends.”