Movie Magic: Family Saturdays at the Senator will get your kids to appreciate great films

City Paper

The first time I took my kids to the Family Saturdays series at the Senator, which usually runs every other Saturday at 10 a.m., we saw “The Black Stallion,” the Oscar-nominated 1979 adaptation of Walter Farley’s classic children’s novel. My sons were maybe 6 and 4 and, up until then, had mostly seen contemporary kids films, like “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo.” They liked “The Wizard of Oz,” though they got bored at times, and they got through “Star Wars,” even though they were too young to really understand what was going on (I distinctly remember having the same experience seeing it in the theater as a 4-year-old). I had never seen “The Black Stallion,” and when someone mentioned that the first half is really slow and largely without dialogue, I worried whether my boys would make it through.

They did, and they loved it, though I think I loved it even more. The opening scenes of Alec, his father, and the titular horse on a steamer off the coast of Africa are beautiful and mysterious, and the shots of Alec and “the Black,” as Alec names the horse, silently learning to trust each other on a deserted island may be the most arty scenes I’ve seen in a kids movie. I worried how my older son, who was shaken up by the death of the father in Martin Scorsese’s kid movie “Hugo,” would handle—spoiler alert—the death of Alec’s dad in an explosion on the steamer, but sitting in that beautiful theater, his eyes glued to the projections on that massive screen, he was too enraptured to turn away.

“The Black Stallion” is the perfect movie to see at the Senator, and that’s why it’s so awesome that it—and so many other great movies for kids—are programmed there as part of the series, one of kid Baltimore’s better-kept secrets. I’m pretty sure if we had tried to watch it at home, my boys would have been squirming and asking to switch to “Spongebob Squarepants” within a few minutes. Not to sound too trite, but something really kinda magical happens when you’re in that darkened theater. You’re able to focus in a way that few of us are able to do otherwise.

Over the last couple of years, as part of the series, we’ve also seen the original “The Muppet Movie,” “Babe,” “Big,” and “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure”—I had no idea until I saw it as an adult that it was directed by Tim Burton or that it had so many hilarious nods to film noir and other Hollywood tropes. We missed “E.T.” last weekend because we were out of town, but I suspect that’s another one they would have only appreciated on this particular big screen.

The remaining films this season are “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” (March 21) and “The Little Rascals” (April 18). Admission is $5.
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