When the doors at the Vashon Theatre open this Sunday, it will be for the 20th — and final — Oscar Night gala hosted by the Vashon Film Society.
Acknowledging the end of an era, Vashon Theatre owner Eileen Wolcott praised Marty Schafer and Leslie McMichael, the primary organizers of the event, who began helping with the island’s Oscar bash 18 years ago.
“They put in a lot of time and energy to make sure this was a fun and exciting thing to go see,” Wolcott said. “I hope a bunch of people come out and give them a good send off.”
While McMichael said it has been “a good ride” organizing the event, she said it is time to pursue other interests.
“I am a musician. I need more time to do music,” she said. “I am even learning to tap dance.”
Looking to Sunday’s event, she, too, said she hopes many people will attend and then go on to “other wonderful things” that follow in its place.
McMichael characterized the Oscar night party as an annual “celebration of movies, community and creativity,” and she noted that for the last decade, the event has raised funds for scholarships for high school students provided through the Vashon Community Scholarship Fund.
“The thing I am proudest of compared to big city fundraisers is it’s very homemade and rustic and modest,” she said, adding, “And we have a good time with our creativity and our crummy, dirty red carpet.”
Additionally, she said, she is happy that the event appealed to people across the age spectrum.
“It’s a family thing,” she said. “Kids are a big part of it.”
This year’s event will include the traditional favorites, with Maria Glanz and her son Finn Judd presiding over the evening.
This will be the second time hosting for Glanz, who hosted two years ago with Susan McCabe. Glanz had not been to the event before and came away impressed. This year, she said, when McMichael asked if she might host again, she thought it would be fun to do with her 12-year-old son, who is very knowledgeable about movies.
“I think the Oscars will be less fun on Vashon without this event, so hopefully we can all have a marvelous and memorable time,” she added.
Come Sunday, Schafer will be outside the theater, shooting footage of the Vashon “stars” arriving on the red carpet, and McMichael, as Lezita Michaels of Tinseltown Tonite Television, will interview guests as they come and go. During commercial breaks, Shafer’s footage will be shown, and the popular costume contest will take place, complete with the famed “Cher” award for the most outrageous outfit. This year, organizers have added the Meryl Streep award, honoring the use of celebrity to promote social justice.
McMichael said she would prefer the event to draw to a close quietly, but she noted some traveling down Memory Lane is likely, with images of previous Oscar parties shown during commercial breaks Sunday night. Recalling years past, McMichael said that she, Schafer and Alice Larson all remember that they used a Poloroid camera to take pictures of people on the red carpet in the early years, and that finding an owner of a vintage car to use as a limousine was a challenge.
One of the mission’s of the Vashon Film Society has been the preservation of the island’s movie theater. In a press release, McMichael noted that goal has been achieved. She added that the theater has weathered a major change in the movie industry itself — transitioning from 35 mm film to digital releases. She also recalled Island Greentech’s effort to partner with the movie theater and replace the film projection system with new digital equipment in 2012. That effort, and the fundraising that went with it, gave rise to the current Tuesday night community film series, which many islanders enjoy.
Fans of the Vashon Theatre may remember that is was the Oscar party itself that drew Wolcott and her husband Gordon to the theater. Last week, Eileen recounted that in 2001, she and Gordon had turned on the TV to find out who the Oscar winners were. They tuned in to the local Fox news station, which featured Vashon’s Oscar party.
“We thought, ‘These people are having a much better time than we are,’” she recalled. “If not for that party, we might not be owners of the theater.”
Calling the Oscar party “near and dear” to their hearts, Wolcott noted that the Oscars are the centerpiece of the theater’s winter season, and they will likely not abandon the Oscars completely.
“It will not be the same spectacular thing, but we will do something,” she said.
Tickets for Oscar Night are on sale at the theater box office and Vashon Bookshop. Admission is $10 for all ages ($12 day of show).
Festivities will start at 4 p.m. Sunday, when the paparazzi, led by John Sage of FinchHaven Digital Photography, meet the arriving “celebrities” in front of the theater. The broadcast of the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood will be shown on the silver screen at 5 p.m.
Snapdragon Bakery and Café will provide a meal for $10. Beverages and snacks will be available at the theater concessions counter during the show.
For more information, call Vashon Film Society at 567-4768 or drop by the Vashon Theatre.