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Ray Barry Retires After Nearly Five Decades at AFI


Apr 12, 2023

Thats how Ray Barry, whose lengthy tenure as director of the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center ended on March 31, sums up the ocean of modifications hes visible in his time operating for the American Film Institute.

Anyone withinside the D.C. place whos ever visible a film on the AFI, whether or not its a Hollywood classic, a overseas movie, or a documentary, can thank Barry. Hes been on the institute for almost 1/2 of a century. His time is going again to the times while the AFI supposed a Kennedy Center auditorium festooned with artfully hung vehicle elements painted a rugged Yves Klein blue. He noticed the organization via a beautiful new chapter, main the attempt to convert a then-shuttered and not noted film residence on Silver Springs Colesville Road into the majestic AFI Silver of today.

And now he`s last the curtain in this storied career.

Barry become instrumental in making D.C. a town wealthy in movie festivals. His tasks covered the AFI/Discovery Channel SILVERDOCS Documentary Film Festival and the yearly AFI European Union Film Showcase, in addition to the Latin American Film Festival.

So why retire now? Barry simply notion it appeared like a terrific time to step down from the theater he helped revitalize. He commenced at the Silver undertaking in 1997 and opened the artwork deco show off in 2003, which now no longer handiest presented a trendy film facility, however helped revitalize downtown Silver Spring. While the theater hasn`t pretty bounced again to pre-pandemic numbers, “withinside the post-COVID environment, we appear to be on quite strong ground,” Barry says.

Todd Hitchcock, who has maximum lately served as assistant director on the Silver, has been named Barrys replacement. He has labored for AFI for the reason that inaugural version of SILVERDOCS in 2003 and navigates a theatrical panorama thats very exclusive from the only Barry entered 50 years ago.

“It blows my thoughts to assume seeking to prepare a competition with movies being proven earlier than their business releases, and youre sending letters withinside the mail to human beings in far off countries,” explains Hitchcock. “And the agree with that those heavy objects [film prints are shipped in heavy cases that can weigh 40 pounds or more] will display up on time. Its very exclusive from the model I do.”

Even withinside the two decades that Hitchcock has been programming, hes visible foremost modifications. “The connectivity of electronic mail and websites, in phrases of creating it that rather more possible to without a doubt get in contact and make preparations to do the sort of thing, has been an improbable sport changer,” he says. “Its the sort of platitude to speak approximately virtual this and virtual that as a revolution, however it is. At the factor in time after I commenced, and that wasn`t the norm but and movies had been nonetheless being shot on celluloid, and virtual become nonetheless this subset and nowhere close to the decision we’ve now.”

The circulate to virtual, says Hitchcock, has in reality modified the sport for a number of the theaters annual foremost events, which includes each its Latin American and African movie festivals. “Its definitely innovative how plenty extra filmmaking were seeing from the ones countries,” he adds. “Completely exclusive from in which we had been 30 years ago. And its been approximately making method of advent that rather more accessible. It sounds basic, however it didnt exist earlier than, and its extraordinary to see.”

Ray Barry (center) at his retirement celebration with AFI president and CEO Bob Gazzale (left) and Todd Hitchcock; Credit: Bruce Guthrie
As it did for lots theaters throughout the country, the pandemic positioned a damper on business; the Silver closed for 15 months, however controlled to live afloat way to diverse ranges of presidency support. There were a few ups and downs when you consider that reopening in May 2021, however the beyond months were the maximum a hit run when you consider that that May, and that`s been encouraging.

“What`s in reality main our effects is the competition and repertory programming,” says Hitchcock. Such latest successes encompass a chain of movies brought via way of means of crime novelist and Silver Spring resident George Pelecanos, who hosted a healthful Friday night time crowd in March for a screening of the 1973 Donald Westlake model The Outfit.

What will AFI seem like beneathneath Hitchcocks direction? “Im now no longer trying to shuffle the deck an entire lot with the crew we’ve here,” he says.

Hes excited for upcoming packages which include the weeklong run of the documentary We Are Fugazi from Washington, D.C. (displaying day by day via April 13). And in summer, AFI launches a brand new collaborative collection with the Library of Congress, the Library of Congress Festival of Film and Sound from June 15 to 18, in order to provide many hardly ever visible titles in 35mm prints, which includes the 1928 Frank Capra movement movie Submarine, in addition to the 1936 drama Craigs Wife, from pioneering girl director Dorothy Arzner. (Writer`s observe and disclosure: My day task is with the LoC.)

Hitchcock has additionally been tapped to move AFIs country wide programming crew, a obligation that consists of overseeing the thirty seventh annual AFI FEST in Los Angeles this fall. In a press release, Hitchcock says, “Throughout my time at AFI, it's been a pleasure if you want to join audiences with the quality in global cinema, each beyond and present, via our packages at AFI Silver. Im pleased to now lead the crew so as to create that revel in for the AFI FEST target target market.”

Going forward, Barry says he`s satisfied to “take a seat down withinside the theater and be a part of the target target market with out disturbing how the display is going.”

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