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Peoria Riverfront Museum opts for film classics instead of first-run movies

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Peoria Riverfront Museum
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Moviegoers enjoy a film in the Peoria Riverfront Museum's Giant Screen Theater.

If you’re planning on taking in the next blockbuster at the Giant Screen Theater located in the Peoria Riverfront Museum, you’re out of luck.

But if you want to check out "The Godfather" again, the museum’s big screen beckons.

Museum president and CEO John Morris said things have changed since the museum opened the theater 10 years ago.

“The original thought 10 years ago when the museum opened of being this place for commercial films on a bigger screen is not really the mission of the museum and no longer really relevant in the world we live in now,” said Morris, adding that the museum would rather provide a unique experience to those who visit.

“Showing a film that’s being shown in 12 other theaters in a 10-county radius is not really a museum thing,” he said.

Instead of the occasional first-run film, the museum theater is now showing classic films on a regular basis, said Morris.

The change in direction makes sense given what’s going on in the theater world, he said.

“We had only been doing three or four of the big commercial films a year anyway. The pandemic hits and we do zero of them. There were very few Hollywood films that were even released. Those that were released on Netflix, Amazon or whatever, simultaneously,” said Morris.

He said that the Giant Screen Theater, now with the largest theater screen in Illinois since the closing of the IMAX Theater on Chicago’s Navy Pier, will no longer be restricted by conditions imposed by studios on new releases.

The new “old movie” approach gives the museum more flexibility, said Morris.

“For a ‘Star Wars’ new release, for example, we have to send 65 percent of revenue back to Disney and we’re locked in through a ‘clean-screen’ mandate so that, for weeks at a time, we can’t show a single educational film, documentary or classic film,” he said.

"Godfather" parts one and two are scheduled for the museum’s big screen for Friday and Saturday, Jan. 21-22 as part of a Francis Ford Coppola film fest.

Author Marc Eliot, the theater’s resident curator, will be at the museum to provide background for the Coppola films as well as attending a book signing on his new biography of singer Merle Haggard on Saturday.

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Steve Tarter retired from the Peoria Journal Star in 2019 after spending 20 years at the paper as both reporter and business editor.