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A night at the movies

Linden Ponds movie nights get better-than-the-cinema reviews

Created date

May 29th, 2014
Joy Griffith and Ben Pettersson co-host At the Movies, which airs on Linden Ponds’ in-house TV channel.
Joy Griffith and Ben Pettersson co-host At the Mov

Eager theatergoers file into the 220-seat Linden Ponds performing arts center on Wednesdays and Saturdays each week for free screenings of films hand-picked by a trusted committee of movie enthusiasts who also live in the community.   

Recently released as well as classic Oscar-nominated or Oscar-winning films typically grace the Linden Ponds’ screen, attracting 70 to 80 attendees who come for each show and dozens more, including family and friends. 

With a high-quality projector inside a comfortable and accessible theater, the experience is “vastly better” than in outside cinemas, says Ben Pettersson, who co-leads the movie committee at Linden Ponds. “We don’t have commercials.” 

All are welcome at Linden Ponds’ theater. “Quite often, if the movie is suitable for young people, some of the residents will bring their children and grandchildren,” Ben says.

Dedicated team

A committee of ten people who live at Linden Ponds meets monthly to select the eight or nine films they show each month. Led by Ben Pettersson and Joy Griffith, the group members nominate each movie, which can be vetoed if one other group member has seen it and thinks it was terrible. Films with more than 50% vulgar language are also omitted from the lineup.      

“They’re all dedicated movie people, and they’re brilliant,” Joy says of the movie committee members.

The group also draws from a list of movie requests submitted by other community members, who are also welcome to attend the selection meetings. Feedback is always welcome.   

Ben arrives at the performing arts center about an hour before each movie is slated to begin to check the equipment and ensure all is functioning properly. 

“He’s absolutely unbelievable. He works so hard at it, and he’s so excellent with every detail,” Joy says. 

Ben and Joy also star in the LPTV6 television program At the Movies, which they produce twice monthly as an opportunity to preview and discuss the movies planned for the coming weeks. The 30-minute program began as a five-minute bit on another program, but positive viewer feedback led to the creation of their show. It has been on the air for about two years. 

“I sometimes get a little overly excited,” Joy says, of her on-screen performances. Though she has always been a movie buff, her interest has grown since moving to Linden Ponds. 

“My biggest asset is Joy Griffith,” Ben says. “She’s just such a wonderful person that she makes the job easier.”

Despite its methodical and time-tested approach, the Linden Ponds movie nights weren’t always so smooth.  

More than nine years ago, before the Derby Clubhouse and the performing arts center came into being, a resident-run committee showed movies in the Oakleaf Clubhouse lounge. 

“That wasn’t terribly good because we had to use a [personal computer] to show, and the sound systems were only mediocre. But people still loved to come,” Ben says. “We said, ‘Maybe what we ought to do is bring up the popcorn machine—that would distract [from the subpar audio and visuals].’ Then it caught fire,” he remembers with a laugh.

The following year, when the Derby Clubhouse opened, the group relocated the movie nights to the performing arts center. That was about the time Ben assumed his leading role in the committee.   

“We just try to show as many good movies that people will appreciate,” Ben says. 

In the coming months, Ben says the committee expects to show some of this year’s Oscar nominees, including American Hustle, Nebraska, Twelve Years a Slave, Saving Mr. Banks, and Frozen, an animated film. Occasionally, the committee coordinates showings with holidays.

As the Linden Ponds community continues to grow, Ben says the movie offerings may also expand.  

“We may have to schedule movies to be shown twice rather than once,” he says.