I’ve got a seat on a bench, wifi, and 30 minutes or so until the great Emmylou takes the stage with Rodney Crowell at TD Arena, so I figured I’d get out a few thoughts while they’re still fresh. I just saw City Lights, Chaplin’s masterpiece about the Little Tramp and the blind flowergirl, with the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra performing the soundtrack.

It was lots of fun, and the orchestra was magnificent as expected; but my overwhelming feeling now that it’s said and done is that that event should have belonged to the community at large, not just to festival-goers ready to shell out $18 (minimum) for a ticket. (You could pay up to $50. Ludicrous.).

I say this not because the performance wasn’t worth $50 a ticket — value-wise, it was, assuming you can put a price on musicianship, but that’s a whole different and pretty pointless discussion — but because movies, be they classics or the latest disposable Hollywood rom-com, are a populist form. That’s what makes them so special. Sequestering the film, live orchestra accompaniment or no, away from the non-Spoleto-going public felt really wrong to me.

I realize that Spoleto, and most festivals of the kind, are elitist by their very nature, but it’s easier to swallow that when you’re watching Shakespeare, something you’re used to paying lots of money to see. But for a movie? It would have been so wonderful to let everyone in on the magic of the festival and the excellence of its orchestra — just once. I could so easily see this or an event like it taking place at the Cistern Yard, for example, as a bring-your-own-chair, no-ticket-required community event. 

I’m sure there would be plenty of logistical challenges, and I know that in big cities, movie tickets cost around $18 anyway (I used to live in DC, and i think I remember paying $21 to see a 3D movie once. Probably the same night I paid $10 for a crappy beer). But still. I really think an opportunity was missed here. If not City Lights or another film next year, how about a community concert? Give it some thought, Spoletians.

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