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TCM bringing "The Natural" to North Park Theatre


You have heard about films like "The True Adventures of Wolfboy" and "Marshall" being shot in Buffalo recently. Saturday night, Turner Classic Movies comes to North Park Theatre for a showing of "The Natural," which was filmed in the summer and fall of 1983 around several iconic Buffalo locations.

Director Barry Levinson and TCM host Ben Mankiewicz will be present to discuss the movie. Tickets for the screening sold out in less than 10 minutes when they went on sale in September.

North Park Theatre was chosen to host the event after a TCM Backlot national contest. Theatre Program Director Ray Barker said Toni Ruberto of the Buffalo News deserves a lot of credit.

“Toni Ruberto nominated us,” said Barker. “There’s a certain part in the process where we had to add to our nomination and they chose us out of all the theaters in the country that were nominates. So we feel very special.”

Barker said it validates a lot of hard work they’ve put in to the theater since its restoration in 2013. North Park Theatre has become a popular venue for red carpet events in Buffalo. They recently hosted the premiere for "Marshall."

“We also hosted the premiere of the Lance Diamond film,” said Barker. “It was also sold out and standing room only. One thing is absolutely clear—people in Buffalo support and back Buffalo in as many ways as they can. So when Buffalo is on the big screen, people come out and support that and that’s just wonderful.”

Barker said he has met dozens of people who helped with the film. It encapsulates a lot of Western New York memories, including his own.

“For me, one of my favorite memories is Parkside Candy, which is used in the film as a kind of lunch-net location,” said Barker. “It’s supposed to be Chicago. When I was a little boy growing up in the Parkside neighborhood of Buffalo, that’s where we went to get our milkshakes and grilled cheese and so on. And it was run by two Greek immigrants. Teddy and Sandy who lived across the street from us.”

Barker said one of his favorite scenes from the movie involves a psychologist talking to the team about losing. The man who played that role was a local financier named Peter Poth, who passed away just a couple weeks ago.

“I wish he was able to come to the screening,” said Barker, “because I would have said to him that when we were teenagers, we laughed silly at that scene. Every single time it brought us a laugh. Some scenes you laugh at, some scenes make you want to cry.”

The film also features a critically acclaimed score by Randy Newman.

“When Roy Hobbs comes up to the plate for the first time and we hear the radio announcers…we don’t know too much about Mr. Hobbs,” said Barker, “…and we hear, ‘Now batting…number nine…Roy Hobbs.’ And he literally knocks the cover off the ball and you hear that great score. Just gets me every time.”

Barker said it is hard not to be moved by the final shot of Roy Hobbs with his son, who was played by local resident Robert Rich III. Rich, along with many other people who helped make the film, will be in attendance.

Memorabilia from the movie, including Roy Hobbs’ famous bat Wonderboy, will be on display.

“One of my favorite scenes from the movie (is) where Wonderboy breaks,” said Barker. “The local batboy has to bring the bat that he and Roy Hobbs had been working on and it said the Savoy Special. You just think about the role of the batboy and some kids being batboys for the Bisons and thinking about the Butcher when he was at War Memorial Stadium.”

Several people will be bringing in standees, which were used to make War Memorial Stadium appear close to full capacity.

"The Natural" is expected to be played again at North Park Theatre in the near future.

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.
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