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Experience the Bigfork Retrospective Film Festival


9 Fan Favorites Over 3 Amazing Days

 October 5th - 7th, 2018

Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts

Bigfork, Montana


Click on arrows to advance gallery

The Mission

The mission of the Bigfork Retrospective (aka Retro) Film Festival is to bring back great films to the big screen in the comfort and convenience of the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts (aka the Bigfork Center) located in Bigfork, Montana. We want to recreate the experience of watching movies as they were originally meant to be seen.

The Vision

Most people have not seen many of the movies that we show at our festival on the big screen; they've only seen them on television. Here is a rare chance to see your favorite classic movies as they were meant to be seen. During the festival, which is held over 4 consecutive days, moviegoers can enjoy a wide variety of classic movies at a affordable price. They have the option of purchasing either an 'All Access Pass' for $35, or tickets to individual showings for $5 a seat. Discounts are provided for seniors, children and large groups.

Our vision is to bring great films to the Flathead Valley so they can be enjoyed by as many people as possible. By purchasing tickets, or by making a donation, you ensure we keep bringing time-honored movies into Bigfork for years to come. If you're like me, you miss watching old movies in a beautiful theater. Here's your chance to relive the past.

In addition to just showing great movies we bring in special guest speakers, some of who have worked in Hollywood their entire careers. They tell fascinating personal stories and provide a 'behind the scenes' look at the process of Hollywood movie making. Following the showing the audience is encouraged to ask questions and learn more about how these great films were made.

Improved Digital Experience

While many of us weren't old enough to see Casablanca, Citizen Kane or Gone with the Wind when they were first released nationally, we can still see those films when they are shown on TV, or if we buy or rent a DVD. If you watch classic movies on DVDs you are sometimes watching an enhanced or restored version of the film. By definition DVD is a digital format, and because it's digital there are many ways it can be enhanced over the original analog version which was created long before DVDs were invented.

As grand as those old movie houses were, the visual and audio quality of what was shown was limited by the fact that they were projecting light through celluloid that had an audio track added to it. This analog technology was fairly reliable, but the audio and visual quality wasn't that great. The picture was often degraded and the sound was sometimes muffled, but it was all they had and what audiences expected. In today's digital world audiences expect the highest quality picture and sound.  

To address this expectation we show our movies using the latest digital technology, Blu Ray or HD DVD, whenever possible, which provides the best quality sound and picture available. That means we can provide a better movie watching experience than you could get even on opening day when the film was first released. We want our audiences to not only experience movies as they were meant to be seen, but also to hear them as they were meant to be heard.

What Makes a Movie a "Classic"?

People sometimes ask what makes a 'classic' movie versus just a popular one. There is no agreed upon definition of what a classic movie is, and to many it seems somewhat subjective, but there are some criteria that movie critics and films historians do agree upon.

According to Tim Dirks from AMC's"Classic Films are often distinguished or unique works of cinema that have transcended time and trends, with indefinable quality. Classic films are often universal favorites that hold up after repeated rescreenings. Classics are renowned films of first rank, reference points in film mythology, or films that have become a part of American cultural folklore."

In other words, last year's attendance breaking blockbuster may or may not turn out to be a classic 25 years from now. If you think about it most films don't become classics, and wide public appeal, while a factor, by itself doesn't make a film a classic. As far as what "transcended time" means, I would argue that a movie needs to be at least 20 years old before it can even be considered a classic. A newer film may someday become a classic, but I think  at least 20 years have to have pass before it can be said that it 'really stood the test of time'.

Few would argue that Casablanca, Citizen Kane and Gone with the Wind are not classics, but as you work your way down any Top 100 list it becomes harder and harder to distinguish between classic and just very popular movies.  Are Psycho (1950), The Jazz Singer (1927) or Little Caesar (1930) classic moviesThey are great movies in their own right, but where do you draw the line?

In the section below titled "So Where's Casablanca?" I explain the somewhat torturous route we took to arrive at the13 movies for this year. Anyone can argue that their list of 13 would have been better, but our goal was not just to select movies that were just "distinguished works" and had "indefinable quality", but movies we thought the average person would want to see again, or perhaps for the first time, on the big screen. So if you favorite didn't make the list don't feel bad. There's always next year! Don't forget to tell us your favorite classic movie using the survey cards provided in the lobby. We want your feedback.

Program Guide

For the 2nd Annual Bigfork Retro Film Festival we're exploring a number of genres that audiences told us they wanted to see. Since this year's theme is "Oscar Favorites' we handpicked some oscar-winning films that we think just about anyyone would want to see. A wide variety of your favorites, from The Wizard of Oz to Schindler's List to The Godfather, will be shown. The two primary criteria we used were wide appeal and having won an Academy Award. There are many popular films that never won an Oscar, and many Oscar-winning films that weren't all that popular. We tried to find the intersection between those two factors.

The films chosen run the gamut and have been selected to both entertain as well as demonstrate the breadth that Hollywood has to offer. Each day of the festival we will show films that either helped create, or broke the mold, of what a classic movie is. Here is your chance to see 13 great films, spanning over 50 years of movie making, in downtown Bigfork.


Friday - October 5th

  (6:00 pm) Casablanca* - 1942

   (8:40 pm) 12 Angry men - 1957

* Guest speaker: Actress, Biographer and Daughter of Paul Henreid






Sunday- October 7th

 (11:00 pm) Paint your wagon - 1969

(2:00 pm) grease singalong* - 1978

  * Guest Speaker: Bill Butler - director of Photography


Go to The 'retro movies' Tab in the navigation bar for more info and Ratings on our films

Saturday - October 6th

(11:00 am) toy story -1995

(1:00 pm) jeremiah johnson - 1972

(3:30 pm) blackboard jungle - 1955

 (6:00 pm) Jaws* - 1975

 (8:30 pm) Rain Man ** - 1988

* Guest Speaker: Peter ford - Actor, Biographer and Son of Glenn ford

  ** Guest Speaker: Bill Butler - director of Photography






              Film Festival Pricing

                           Our goal is to keep ticket prices as low as possible to in order to allow as many filmgoers to attend as possible. Tickets are available on this website or at the venue during festival hours.

                         Adult Single Showing Price - $5.00 per person

                         Senior (65+)/Children (12 yrs and under when allowed) Single Showing Price - $4.00 per person

                         VIP All Access Pass - $35.00 per person for any and all films showing at the festival (Best Value)

                         Contact us for school and other group discounts

                         Theater Seating is limited. Advanced purchase is recommended.


Enjoy movies as they were  meant to be seen



So Where's Casablanca? Smart Aleck Answer... "It's in Morocco."

For last year's retrospective festival I decided to focus on one genre, and because I lived in Montana I thought I would start with Westerns. While people came to watch our Westerns it was evident that audiences wanted more variety in their films. The audience spoke, and I listened.

For 2017 I took a much broader approach. After tabulating the survey cards I identified five genres that audiences seemed most interested in. In order of popularity those genres were Film Noir, Adventure, Crime, Comedy and Musicals. Based on that, and from discussions with other local film enthusiasts, I came up with a different way of picking this year's films. I decided that the theme this year would be 'Best of Hollywood' and I defined 'best' as hugly popular Academy Award-winning films.

I enlisted some volunteers and we started by taking AFI's 100 Greatest American Films of All Time and picked out films that we liked, were popular and had won an Oscar. To our surprise we found that many great films, such as Gene Kelly's 'Singin in the Rain', Humphrey Bogart's 'The Maltese Falcon' and Alfred Hitchcock's 'North by Northwest' hadn't won an Oscar, and that some Oscar-winning films like Cary Grant's 'The Philadelphia Story', Audrey Hepburn's 'My Fair Lady' and Tom Hank's 'Forest Gump' weren't all that popular, at least has far as the volunteers were concerned. (Don't worry, even though these films weren't included this year they are still important and we plan on showing them in the future.)

After months of discussion we were able to narrow down our list to 13 movies that qualified as both award-winning and beloved, and that we thought people would actually want to see on the big screen. Some of the choices were relatively easy, but others were harder to agree on. It turns out that some people cling tightly to their favorites and don't want to give them up!

You may have noticed that the 'classic' of all classic movies Casablanca, one of Hollywood's most beloved love stories, was missing from the list. Did we decide that for some reason it wasn't good enough to show? Not at all. Casablanca was always on our list, but when I tried to license it we were told it wasn't available for public showing during the month of October. The reason has to do with a special 75th Anniversary DVD that is being released around that time. For that reason, and that reason alone, we aren't showing Casablanca this year, but we do plan to show it next year.

Did we end up with the 13 best classic films possible? I have a feeling that in a room filled with 50 people, and everyone starting with the same Top 100 list, you would get 50 different top 13 lists with at least a handful of movies in common. In other words, any 'best of' movies list is always going to be up for debate. We'll have to see if audiences agree with our choices. I apologize in advance if your favorite didn't make it into this year's program. We will again be providing survey cards to see which films people felt were missing.  It will be interesting to see what the wisdom of the crowd tells us, and we promise to use what we learn to plan next year's festival.

Share the experience and watch your favorite classic films in Bigfork!


Steve Shapero, BFF Founder


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