Upstate Films opened in May of 1972 as a single-screen non-profit cinema staffed by its three founders. We launched our program in 16mm showing an eclectic mix of classic Hollywood and foreign films reflecting a wide-ranging diversity of themes, styles, countries, eras. Upstate joined Fosters, the Beekman Arms, the Dutchess County Fair, the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, as a local attraction. Soon Upstate began to find and foster an audience interested in supporting an alternative to mainstream cinema. Upstate came of age so to speak along with the “independent” film movement screening sought-after indie features and documentaries along with films that were rarely screened in this country, much less in a semi-rural area.
Over the decades, Upstate has shown thousands of films and hosted hundreds of filmmakers and critics, on its way to becoming a critically-acclaimed destination itself. Random highlights include New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael, who in the 1970s, discussed a classic Preston Sturges’ comedy, The Lady Eve with our audience. Almost a decade later, Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory performed their play My Dinner with Andre to rapt audiences. (Soon after these performances, French director Louis Malle made the popular film version.) Visionary artists such as Jonathan Demme, Ismail Merchant, James Ivory, John Sayles, Todd Haynes, John Patrick Shanley, Errol Morris, Jim Jarmusch, and Debra Granik visited and shared their work and passion at various points in their careers. (See Guest Speakers.)
Just as important as bringing renowned and emerging artists to our community, Upstate serves as a public forum—having hosted speakers such as consumer activist Ralph Nader and United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter. Upstate Films cooperates with many and varied community organizations to address topics of local interest, from fracking to farming, to local history to Lyme disease. These programs are often offered free of charge to help reinforce our mission and introduce our theaters to new audience members.
Supporting education is part of our mission. Upstate hosts filmmaking workshops for students in conjunction with Spark Media. During the school year, Upstate works with teachers at the F.D. Roosevelt High School in Hyde Park, NY in an ongoing advanced placement course – A Documentary Approach to History & Literature that began in 1987.
Upstate has also had a hand in bringing worthy films to the attention of the public having co-distributed Anchoress, an elegant medieval drama from the U.K., the Academy Award-nominated documentary The Weather Underground, Sweden’s stunning fable about loss and rebirth, Under the Sun, and local filmmaker Ralph Arlyck’s Emmy-nominated Following Sean. In the early ‘80s, Upstate sponsored The American New Wave series, and in the mid-1980s programmed Hudson Valley Film Festivals focusing on films by makers from the region, about the region, or set in the Hudson Valley. In the ‘90s, in collaboration with other arts organizations, Upstate helped create a festival that focused on the screenwriter’s contribution to cinema art, and in 2000, Upstate presented a festival of films inspired by Shakespeare.
Over the decades, we’ve expanded our physical footprint. In 1999, we built and opened our second small theater at our Rhinebeck location to help us survive competition from a glut of multiplexes. We welcomed all the generous contributions and support from our public who helped make this expansion possible. In winter 2010 we leased Woodstock’s single screen cinema, in part, to save it from extinction. And along the way, to deliver powerful images and sound we’ve embraced new technology making upgrades to our projection and sound equipment moving from 16 to 35mm, from mono to stereo sound, adding video capability, and in 2013, with support from our audience, we made the transition to the film industry-mandated change to digital projection and sound.
Upstate Films, is both an economic anchor and a cultural magnet, contributing to our communities’ vitality and uniqueness. The 75,000-plus filmgoers who attend our cinemas annually patronize local merchants before and after the show. Upstate’s pioneering spirit encouraged other arts groups, including The Rhinebeck Chamber Music Society, the Cocoon Theater, and the Rhinebeck Performing Arts Center to locate in the area. In the face of stay-at-home, privatizing innovations, Upstate delivers a public experience. It is a place to experience the variety of larger-than-life international cinema where, sitting with one’s friends and fellow moviegoers, we share entrée into new worlds, experiences, and cultures. Our programming on both sides of the Hudson, in Rhinebeck as well as Woodstock, explores and highlights important social realities, cultural phenomena, and aesthetic movements, and enriches our audiences’ lives. For Upstate, film has always been more than passive escapism; it is an art that benefits from being experienced with others.
A Timeline, 1972 – 2006: Upstate Films & the rest of the world
1972: Upstate Films opens in May with a showing of Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup, the only one of their films that flopped at the box office, but a great send up of why nations go to war. Even though Upstate shows de Antonio’s scathing portrait, Millhouse: A White Comedy, Nixon’s reelected. Chaplin returns to the U.S. after 20 years in exile. We meet fast-talking Howard Goldfarb who owns the rights to the Chaplin films. He gives us a $20 bill and says, “Kids, go have lunch. I have to take some calls.” Watergate burglars caught. Nixon, unfazed, visits China & suddenly the U.S. recognizes that there are 1 billion more people on earth. Finally some good U.S. films including Godfather & Cabaret. How rural was it in Rhinebeck? Through a phone interview snafu, Upstate’s first foreign film series became a farming film series.
1973: Supreme Court decisions – Roe v. Wade; obscenity left to the states. Last Tango In Paris brings sex on screen above ground. Fear of Flying is the big book. Picasso dies, the American Psychiatric Association declares that “homosexuality is not a psychiatric disorder,” U.S. troops withdrawn from Vietnam. Big hits at Upstate: Children of Paradise, King of Hearts, Jules & Jim, Smiles of a Summer Night, Howard Koch with Casablanca.
1974: Upstate shows… first documentary hit – I.F. Stone’s Weekly, Women in Film series begins, Pauline Kael visits with The Lady Eve, The Sorrow & The Pity, Cuban cinema, Walkabout, Attica. Watergate catches up to Nixon who resigns. In Sept., scientists announce CFC’s deplete the ozone layer. Senate votes to restore the death penalty. Oil gets very expensive.
1975: Chaplin’s knighted. Goldfarb comes through with his films. Saigon falls. “Squeaky” Fromme attempts to shoot Pres. Ford. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Jaws, & Nashville. At Upstate, Bruce Baillie shows films, 5 Easy Pieces, Scenes from a Marriage, Discreet Charm, Black Orpheus, Love & Anarchy, Hearts & Minds, Lacombe, Lucien.
1976: Bicentennial. Supreme Court rules that states may prosecute people for homosexual acts, 100s parade through Central Park smoking pot, Capital Punishment ruled constitutional, U.S. & Iran make $10 billion arms deal, Mao dies, a Princeton student publishes “How to Build an Atomic Bomb,” Jimmy Carter beats Ford. Hollywood opens Taxi Driver, All the President’s Men, Rocky (numero uno). Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Upstate shows Waiting for Fidel, The Harder They Come, Alphaville, Distant Thunder, Monty Python & Holy Grail, Love of Life, Trouble in Paradise, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Lancelot du Lac, Mean Streets, Don’t Look Back, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul…
1977: 80% of the nation watches Roots on TV, CB radio craze peaks, Elvis dies (?), so do Groucho & Chaplin, Star Wars, Close Encounters, Saturday Night Fever, Annie Hall all open, Jane & Nick born, Upstate shows Hester Street, Mystery of Kaspar Hauser, director Joseph Mankiewicz comes with his classic film All About Eve, D.P. Hart Perry with Harlan County, Face to Face, Aguirre Wrath of God, James Ivory with Autobiography of a Princess, The Man Who Fell to Earth
1978: Ali loses his title to Spinks, first test tube baby, Sid kills Nancy, Harvey Milk & Mayor Moscone assassinated. Animal House opens big as does Deer Hunter & Grease. Director Jonathan Demme comes to Upstate with Citizen’s Band, Amarcord, Grey Gardens, Padre Padrone.
1979: U.S. Embassy in Teheran seized. Egypt & Israel sign treaty. 3 Mile Island, Thatcher becomes P.M., Hair, Apocalypse Now. Nicaraguans overthrows Somoza. At Upstate, Gertrude Stein, Obscure Object of Desire, Madame Rosa, Bread & Chocolate.
1980: Archbishop Romero assassinated, Reagan elected, John Lennon murdered, Raging Bull, at Upstate, new used seats, Tree of Wooden Clogs, The Wobblies, Marriage of Maria Braun, Head over Heels, Angi Vera, The War at Home, Wally Shawn & Andre Gregory do My Dinner With Andre at Upstate but Louis Malle’s in Easthampton
1981: Military Budget increased by $32 billion, Hinckley shoots Reagan, Pope John Paul II attacked, Sandra Day O’Connor first woman Supreme Court Justice, Sadat assassinated, AIDS virus identified. Reds, French Lt’s Woman,. At Upstate, My Brilliant Career, Best Boy, Tin Drum, Return of the Secaucus 7, Tomorrow.
1982: Many greats die – Thelonius Monk, John Belushi, Fassbinder, Ingrid Bergman, Henry Fonda… Barney Clark gets artificial heart. Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa is freed. Mainstream movies – Gandhi, Tootsie, Sophie’s Choice, Porky’s does boffo as taste bottoms out. At Upstate – Stevie, Man of Iron, La Strada, Atomic Cafe, My Dinner With Andre’s a big hit. Kingston now has 11 screens (10 more than when we opened) ET, Tootsie. Is the end nigh?
1983: Reagan dubs the Soviet Union, the “Evil Empire,” Klaus Barbie captured in Bolivia, Michael Milkmen, the junk bond king, gets rolling, U.S. invades Grenada & the press isn’t invited. In May, Upstate finally gets 35 mm projection equipment. Chan is Missing with director Wayne Wang, Smithereens, Tender Mercies, Draughtsman’s Contract
1984: Welcome George Orwell. Marines leave Beirut. Reagan denies authority of World Court decisions re: Central America. Real Estate booms & Rhinebeck’s discovered. Indira Gandhi assassinated, Reagan-Bush beat Mondale-Ferraro, 1000s hurt/killed by chemical gas leak at Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. Ghostbusters. Upstate shows Fanny & Alexander, The Grey Fox, Don Giovanni, Luggage of the Gods, Return of Martin Guerre, El Norte, The Good Fight …
1985: Gorbachev takes over in Soviet Union, Soviets freeze nuke weapons, U.S. govt. ruled not responsible for Agent Orange, Philly police bomb part of city, teen hackers break into Pentagon computers, U.S. deficit reaches $30 billion, Crack use epidemic. Reagan & Gorbachev meet, Orson Welles dies. Upstate shows Streetwise, Carmen, Ballad of Narayama. Multiplexiing rampant – 14 new screens. Is the end nigh?
1986: Gorby unveils plan to eliminate nukes by 2000. Space Shuttle Challenger explodes on lift-off, U.S. & Libya clash, Georgia O’Keefe dies, Senate passes aid to Contras, 13% of adults are illiterate, U.S. bombs Libya, Supreme Court upholds Roe v. Wade, Rehnquist becomes Chief Justice. Upstate shows A Room With A View, Lizzie Borden with Working Girls, Elsewhere, Platoon is a big hit.
1987: Afghan truce, KKK hit with $7 million fine in Mobile, Ala., TV evangelist Bakker in scandal, Gary Hart caught in flagrant which ends his Presidential bid, Klaus Barbie convicted in France, Oliver North testifies, 24 nations (not U.S.) sign ozone pact, Warhol dies. My Life As A Dog, Matewan, Jean de Florette
1988: Ollie indicted, U.S. shoots down Iranian airliner, Upstate picketed, Iran-Iraq war ends after 8 years, Bush elected President,
1989: Exxon tanker Valdez oil spill in Alaska, O. North guilty, Gorby elected, Supreme Court upholds restrictions on abortion, earthquake in San Francisco, E. Germany & Czech regimes fall, Bush sends troops to Panama, Ceausecu overthrown in Romania, Cassavetes, Mel Blanc, Bette Davis, Abbie Hoffman dies
1990: Nelson Mandela freed, Iraqis invade Kuwait, Germany united, Thatcher quits, Lech Walesa elected president, Upstate shows Crimes and Misdemeanors, Straight No Chaser, Sweetie, Roger and Me, My Left Foot, Cinema Paradiso, Solaris, Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down, Metropolitan
1991: Persian Gulf War, unemployment at 4 year high, apartheid law repealed in S. Africa, Clarence Thomas joins high court, Henry and June, Cyrano, Rikyu, The Grifters, Ay Carmela, La Femme Nikita, Jungle Fever, Europa Europa, Paris is Burning, My Own Private Idaho
1992: Upstate turns 20!, Yugoslav Federation breaks up, cold war officially over, Noriega goes to jail, U.S. leaves the Philippines after about 100 years, Czech Republic and Slovakia, famine in Somalia, police get off in Rodney King beating, L.A. riots (go figure), Clinton wins, Johnny Carson says good-bye, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow’s bitter end, Upstate shows Mississippi Masala, Proof, Daughters of the Dust, Howard’s End, Delicatessen, The Player, Swoon
1993: “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” Waco massacre, World Trade Center gets the bomb, European Union in effect, NAFTA, Toni Morrison gets Nobel while Michael Jackson accused of molestation, majority rule in South Africa, Fellini, Zappa, Gillespie, and Hepburn (Audrey) die, Menace II Society, Orlando, Like Water for Chocolate, The Wedding Banquet, The Crying Game, Tous Les Matins du Monde
1994: C.I.A. agent Aldrich Ames caught spying for russians, Russians attack Chechnya, genocide in Rwanda, world series canceled as major league on strike, Israel-Jordan peace treaty, Nelson Mandela elected president in S. Africa, I.R.A. call cease-fire in Ireland, Aristide back in Haitian gov’t, Woodstock ‘94. Upstate helps found the Hudson Valley Film Festival. Upstate shows Short Cuts, Philadelphia (Jonathan Demme comes to speak), The War Room, Remains of the Day, Bleu, Go Fish, WHite, Barcelona, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and Nixon and Jackie O die.
1995: O.J. not guilty?, Timothy McVeigh arrested for Oklahoma City Bombing, Nerve gas in Tokyo subways, cease-fire in Bosnia, million man march, Yitzhak Rabin assassinated, dead heads in mourning (Jerry Garcia goes to heaven), Babe rules, Smoke, 2 Girls in Love, The Postman, The Bicycle Thief, The Secret of Roan Inish, **Priest** (Upstate & the Dutchess Co. Arts Council are targeted by the Dutchess Co. Legislature and a battle ensues between supporters of first amendment free speech & a cabal of legislators), A Great Day in Harlem, Heavenly Creatures, To Live, Red at Upstate
1996: Valujet crashes in Everglades, Trainspotting, Charles and Diana divorce, Ella Fitzgerald dies, Congress passes infamous “welfare reform bill”, China agrees to world ban on atomic testing, Taliban captures Afghanistan, Clinton reelected, Basquiat, Welcome to the Dollhouse, Latcho Drom, I Shot Andy Warhol, Antonia’s Line, The Flower of my Secret, mad cow disease…but Dolly is born.
1997: Hale-Bopp visits earth and Heaven’s Gate commits suicide, The Full Monty, California bans affirmative action, Hong Kong returns to Chinese rule, Pol Pot on trial, Mother Theresa dies, Swiss pay Holocaust victims, Upstate shows The Sweet Hereafter, Ma Vie En Rose, Contempt, SHall We Dance?, Ponette, In the Company of Men, Hard 8, Irma Vep, The Pillow Book
1998: White House sex scandal breaks with ‘that woman, Ms. Lewinsky,’ Former Chilean dictator Pinochet arrested in London, year of Titanic, Viagra: Hugh Hefner’s drug of choice, Live Flesh, The Ice Storm, Nil By Mouth, Don’t Look Back, The Spanish Prisoner, Kudun, Last Days of Disco, High Art, Wilde, Taste of Cherry at Upstate, Frank Sinatra dies.
1999: East Timor votes for independence from Indonesia, surprise, the world survives–Y2K’s a bust, war erupts in Kosovo, teenage wasteland: Columbine shootings, Stanley Kubrick dies. Upstate opens its second theater built with help from its many friends. Two screens! Being John Malkovich, 42 Up, All About MY Mother, Gods and Monsters, Life is Beautiful, Hands on a Hard Body, Illuminata, Topsy Turvy, Hillary and Jackie, La Cuidad, Sweet and Lowdown.
2000: N. and S. Korea meet again, violence in Israel worst in years, Gore is president, wait, no, it’s Bush who wins, trade begins with China, Elian Gonzalez tug-o-war, Napster clogs the net and the court, will DVD win out? American Movie, Boys Don’t Cry, Holy Smoke, Breathless, East West, Croupier, Sunshine, Girlfight, Ran at Upstate. Upstate hosts Shakespeare Festival & Woodstock Film Festival debuts.
2001: The World Trade Center is destroyed and thousands perish. War with the Taliban in Afghanistan and a search for Osama Bin Laden begins. China is finally admitted to the WTO after 15 years of negotiating, Robert Hansenn has finely been avoiding arrest as a spy for Russia, the Democrats firmly take control of the Senate, Enron frantically files for bankruptcy, and the Netherlands fortunately becomes the first country to allow same-sex marriage. Apple releases the iPod, and Timothy McVeigh is executed for the Oklahoma City Bombing. Cruise and Kidman separate, and frankly, people give a damn. Amelie, Royal Tenenbaums, Billy Elliot, Nosferatu, Before Night Falls, In the Mood for Love, Amores Perros, and Mullholland Dr.
2002: President George W. Bush faints after choking on a pretzel. Queen Elizabeth II gives former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani an honorary knighthood. U.S. invades Afghanistan: Operation Anaconda begins. In Washington, DC, Chandra Levy’s remains are found in Rock Creek Park. The Mars Odyssey finds signs of huge water ice deposits on Mars and Serena Williams defeats her sister Venus Williams in straight sets to win the 2002 French Open. Telecommunications giant WorldCom files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the largest such filing in United States history. Switzerland, known for its neutrality, joins the United Nations. President George W. Bush challenges UN members to confront the “grave and gathering danger” of Iraq or stand aside as the United States and likeminded nations act. Iran bans advertising of US products. Gosford Park, Kandahar, Trembling Before G-d, Waking Life, Monsoon Wedding, Tuvalu, Y Tu Mama Tambien, and Bowling for Columbine.
2003: More than ten million people protest the Iraq war in over 600 cities worldwide. Antwerp Diamond Center in Belgium opens its vaults to discover that unknown burglars had stolen diamonds worth $100 million – the largest diamond theft ever. In March, WHO issues a global alert on SARS a few days before the first American bombs are dropped on Baghdad, Iraq. The Human Genome Project is successfully completed with 99% of the human genome sequenced to 99.99% accuracy. Martha Stewart and her broker are indicted for using privileged investment information and obstructing a federal investigation. Stewart resigns as chairperson and chief executive officer of Martha Stewart Living. U.S. Supreme Court rules sodomy laws unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas. California voters recall Governor Gray Davis from office and elect Arnold Schwarzenegger. Facing an investigation surrounding allegations of illegal drug use, right wing radio host Rush Limbaugh publicly admits that he is addicted to prescription pain killers and will seek treatment. Michael Jackson is arrested on changes of child molestation. Libya admits that it was building a nuclear bomb. Andy Goldsworthy: Rivers and Tides, The Quiet American, Laurel Canyon, Bend It Like Beckham, Russian Ark, Winged Migration, Spellbound, The Weather Underground, The Station Agent, and The Triplets of Belleville.
2004: Bird flu spreads throughout Southeast Asia, and Europe is importing poultry from Thailand. The CIA admits that there were no WMD threats before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The City and County of San Francisco begins issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as an act of civil disobedience. Simultaneous explosions on rush hour trains in Madrid kill 190 people, and millions of protesters take to the streets of Spanish cities. The final episode of Friends airs on NBC. Massachusetts legalizes same-sex marriage. Ronald Reagan dies at age 93. Lance Armstrong of Austin, Texas wins 6th consecutive Tour de France. New Jersey governor James McGreevey announces that he is “a gay American” and resigns. The 2004 Summer Olympics begin in Athens. They end on August 29, as 200,000 protesters demonstrate in New York City against President George W. Bush and his government, at the Republican National Convention. The Boston Red Sox win the World Series for the first time since 1918. President George W. Bush defeats Senator John Kerry. On December 26, the strongest earthquake in 40 years originates from the Indian Ocean off the west coast of Indonesia, measuring 9.3 on the Richter Scale and creates a tsunami that sweeps across much of the coastlines of South Asia. 21 Grams, The Fog of War, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Super Size Me, The Agronomist, Control Room, Fahrenheit 9/11, The Corporation, Motorcycle Diarie, I Heart Huckabees, Sideways, Bad Education.
2005: Adriana Iliescu gives birth at 66, the oldest woman in the world to do so. North Korea announces that it possesses nuclear weapons as a protection against U.S agression. The Supreme Court rules the death penalty unconstitutional for juveniles, and the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals refuses to order the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube. Pope John Paul II dies; over 4 million people travel to the Vatican to mourn. Syria withdraws the last of its troops in Lebanon, ending its 29 year military domination. The final episode of Star Trek is broadcast, marking the first time since 1987 that a Star Trek series is not in production. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith released. Lance Armstrong wins seventh straight Tours de France before his scheduled retirement. Michael Jackson is acquitted of all charges. Hurricane Katrina strikes the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coastal areas. Within hours, levees give way and New Orleans is flooded. Oil prices rise sharply. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez sells cheap heating oil directly to poor neighborhoods in the U.S. through non-profits. Surgeons in France carry out the first human face transplant. South Africa becomes the fifth country in the world where same-sex marriages are recognized. New York City’s Transport Workers Union Local 100 goes on strike for three days, shutting down all New York City Subway and Bus services. Hotel Rwanda, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Mad Hot Ballroom, Head On, Mysterious Skin, March of the Penguins, Broken Flowers, The Squid and the Whale, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, Paradise Now, Brokeback Mountain
2006: Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is inaugurated as the first female President of Liberia. United States Vice President Dick Cheney shoots and injures Harry Whittington while hunting in rural Texas, becoming the first sitting Vice President since Aaron Burr to shoot another person. Match Point, The Fallen Idol, Caché, The Best of Youth, Thank You For Smoking, Tristram Shandy, The New World, Why We Fight.