The Wilmette Theatre is small. It has two screens. One is located in a lounge with less seating than a corner pub — though it’s more comfortable. The front of the house has a single point of sale. There’s a humble concession area with a humble — albeit proficient — popcorn machine.
The historic venue gets by with a mix of independent films, live dad bands and the occasional blockbuster. Anything more could be quite a strain on the nonprofit theater’s resources.
But Program Director Amy Falkowski, and her merry band of part-timers, put that to the test starting Thursday, July 21, when they joined in on the Barbenheimer sensation, screening both major motion pictures “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.”
“It was really risky for us, but we were going to commit,” Falkowski said. “I’m really excited that we did.”
Falkowski reported that both of the theater’s July 21 showings of “Barbie” sold out, and “Oppenheimer” was a “near sellout.” She said the theater has not sold out a film showing since 2021, and the packed shows continued through the weekend — with dozens of festive guests coming through.
Dressing in sync with the films — primarily “Barbie” — is part of the Barbenheimer experience, and Falkowski enjoyed seeing a sea of pink in the theater lobby.
“As a nonprofit, I’m so happy and thrilled and thankful to this community for being there for us,” Falkowski said. “I’m easily emotional but a couple times I got choked up looking at everybody lined up out the door.”
When Falkowski nabbed the rights to both films in the spring, the innovative and massive Barbenheimer marketing had yet to really begin. But the theater ran with the idea and was then aided by the national advertising campaign.
“Barbie” is a live-action film about the iconic doll that stars Margot Robbie (Barbie) and Ryan Gosling (Ken) and tells the fantasy of Barbie and Ken interacting with the real world, and “Oppenheimer” is a Christopher Nolan biopic about J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy), the physicist who led the way for the creation of the first nuclear weapon.
The Mette will carry both films for at least two more weeks and continue its promotions, such as a Barbie cocktail (pink lemonade and Prosecco) and raffles for T-shirts and actual Barbie dolls. Check the theater’s website for showtimes.
The Wilmette Theatre wasn’t the only local venue pretty in pink on Thursday, July 21.
Landmark theater in Glenview hosted nearly 200 North Shore women for a fundraising showing of “Barbie.” Proceeds went to WINGS, a north-suburban-based nonprofit that provides resources, such as housing and counseling, to respond to and fight against domestic violence.
The special event was the brainchild of Norhbrook’s Ellie Forman, who originally just set out to create a fun night for friends.
“I wanted to gather all my friends to go see it and didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity,” she said. “It started as that and just snowballed.
“It took on a life of its own in all the best ways.”
As word of mouth about the evening spread, Forman had to work with the theater as the group kept graduating to larger theaters: 58-person to 78 to 178. And when that was sold out, about 30 more women remained on a waiting list, she said.
Winnetka’s Courtney Wright was one of the hundreds of North Shore women who was messaged about the event and helped recruit for the show.
On top of being a CEO twiceover (Gemini Builds It and Showcase Acrylics), Wright hosts a female empowerment podcast called “Lady Boss.”
“I wasn’t a massive girly girl … but the movie surpassed my expectations. It was so well done with so many great messages,” Wright said. “I was not really going for the movie necessarily but the part about rallying up a bunch of women and the charity component is always a draw for me.”
Along the way, Forman turned the event into a fundraiser and adding fun elements, such as props, raffles and auctions. The top item up for bid was a signature from “Barbie” star and Hollywood A-lister Margot Robbie. Forman said he sister-in-law bumped into Robbie at Soho House in West London, where the sister-in-law told Robbie about the Glenview event. Using lip gloss, Robbie reportedly signed a portion of a pizza box for her.
The item — framed in pink and joined with a Robbie photo and blurb — helped the night take in more than $2,000 for WINGS.
“That’s the nature of women in the North Shore,” Forman said of the turnout. “It spoke to the way we all band together and really together through this connected network between all North Shore communities.”
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