‘The Rock of Gibraltar’ showing set for Thursday
An award-winning film telling the fictional tale of a gangster era police hunt for a criminal mastermind has a special tie to the Holland Theatre, and Thursday night, the movie will make its first public showing at the local historic venue.
The Rock of Gibraltar is shown at 7 p.m. Thursday as part of the Holland Theatre’s spring movie series.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for the session hosted by Windmill Productions, and attendees are invited to attend in period attire from the 1940s.
Arkansas-based writer, director and producer Michael Pharis explained that The Rock of Gibraltar’s “night on the town” sequence was filmed on location at the Holland Theatre in November 2015. Local extras are featured in that scene as well.
Following the difficulties of releasing a film in the pandemic times of 2020, the filmmaker said he is ecstatic about finally being able to host this local premiere for the movie.
“The Holland will be the movie’s first public showing, as the pandemic stifled our hopes of premiering publicly until this year,” he said. “I am beyond excited to be able to show it to the folks in Ohio and fulfill a promise of returning with our movie to show at the Holland. I am forever thankful to Kris Swisher and the Holland for helping us in completing the movie.
“The Holland was a great fit for a movie because aesthetically the theater fits the era. The Rock of Gibraltar takes place in 1939 and 1940. The Holland has the beauty and opulence that was characteristic of the old world theaters back in the day, where going out was an event.”
Donations are accepted at the door for the movie night.
Also filmed in multiple other historic locations, including the Missouri State Penitentiary, Drake Airfield in Fayetteville, Ark., and at the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Ark., The Rock of Gibraltar follows law enforcement’s search for criminal mastermind Deacon Marsh, played by Will Trentham.
“When Deacon becomes committed to acquiring a mythical jewel known as the Rock of Gibraltar and disappearing for good, Fort Smith police detective Jake Bradford (Jason Collins) buckles down to ensure his foe can’t escape and will be brought to justice,” Pharis said.
During planning and production for the film, Pharis said he met with Tom Pfrogner of the Tommy Daugherty Orchestra, leader of the big band featured in the movie. Together they contacted a several different theaters in Ohio and spent a day driving to the venues. It was at that time that he met Kris Swisher, president of the Logan County Landmark Preservation Inc. that runs the Holland Theatre.
“Kris was actually the first one we spoke to and visited, and her energy and enthusiasm for supporting the arts and the unique history of the Holland was apparent,” the Arkansas resident said. “She clearly has a passion for advancing the Holland’s mission and showcasing its beauty as a venue and historical landmark, and was all for helping work out filming there for our movie…
“Practically speaking, filming at the Holland was a no brainer. Kris Swisher was on board from the start and so encouraging and accommodating in helping us figure out how to get the sequence shot there.”
The director said Swisher advertised the filming of the movie to local individuals and Pfrogner advertised it to fans of their group as well.
“We were fortunate to have 20 or 30 folks come out in full 1930s hair and dress and be extras in the scene,” he said.
“I wanted to feature a big band in the movie because there was usually some sort of musical number in the old movies I grew up watching. Tom Daugherty and his orchestra and Kris were kind enough to work together with me to make it happen at the Holland.”
The movie is a fictional narrative inspired by multiple true-stories and amalgamations of the big-time criminals of the dirty 30s and Gangster Era, Pharis related.
“It is also a love-letter to the gangster movies of the 1930s which I grew up watching with my mom and dad on TCM.
“I enjoy writing movies and prose set in the 1930s-1950s. I am largely drawn to this era because I was raised on the classics of this era of moviemaking. The studio system, the stars, and the storytelling created stories that endure to this day.”
At the end of 2019, Pharis sent the film to multiple film festivals and said the movie made it into six of the festivals and he is waiting to hear back from several additional festivals.
The Rock of Gibraltar garnered the Audience Choice Award in the Made in Arkansas Film Festival and in the Fayetteville Film Festival. It also won best crime/drama feature in the Indie Gathering Film Festival in Ohio and Best Feature in the Art is Alive Film Festival.
Swisher said she hopes area residents will enjoy checking out the final product from the local filming a little over five years ago.
“It’s something we’ll never forget,” she said. “We can’t wait for the premiere and we hope to make this a fun event and draw in the community for a memorable night.”
Additional information about the film is available at www.michaelpharis.com.