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Huge downtown Plymouth crowd sends message to Paramount: We want ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’!

 Huge downtown Plymouth crowd sends message to Paramount: We want ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’!

City’s love for movie, Penn Theatre resonates on special night in DTP

Thursday night’s show of affection in downtown Plymouth for “It’s A Wonderful Life” and the Penn Theatre couldn’t have been more compelling even if Frank Capra had written the script.

An estimated crowd of 1,000 people flooded Penniman Avenue in front of the Penn to pose for photos, video and drone shots that will be delivered to the classic Christmas movie’s distributor, Paramount Pictures, which recently revealed it will not allow small movie venues like the Penn to show the film.

The movie has been a holiday staple in downtown Plymouth since 2007, a 15-year run that was only interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

“I was overwhelmed (by the turnout),” said Penn Theatre Executive Director Ellen Elliott, who set the show of affection in motion. “I was so moved by the outpouring of love for the movie and the Penn, I cried.

The Penn Theatre marquee had a double message for Paramount Pictures

“I wasn’t exactly sure how many people would show up, but the size of the crowd exceeded any expectations I may have had. Knowing what I know about this community, though, I wasn’t surprised. This is an example to other communities: If you care about something enough, step up and do something.”

The crowd was a blend of young and old — the vast majority of attendees not yet born when the film was released in 1946.

One man held up a sign that read: What would Jimmy Stewart Say?

Stewart was the star of the movie that depicted the life of George Bailey, who transformed from a jolly do-gooder to a mentally unstable wreck due to the actions of his antagonist, Mr. Potter.

Spoiler alert: The movie ends well for Bailey, sending a resounding message that good can prevail over evil.

“It’s one of those rare movies where at the end you’re clapping and crying at the same time,” said Penn supporter/volunteer Vikki Plagens. “It would be a shame to see it not shown any more at the Penn.”

Cool connection

Longtime Plymouth resident Andy Zazula, who was among the throng of Penn/”It’s A Wonderful Life” lovers, enjoys a unique connection to “It’s A Wonderful Life”.

Its A Wonderful Life actress Virginia Patton is pictured at the Penn Theatre in 2012 with her husband Cruse

In 2012, during his final year as an Ann Arbor police officer, Zazula discovered that Virginia Patton, who played Ruth Dakin Baily in the movie, lived in Ann Arbor.

“On my very last day of work before I retired, I drove by Virginia’s house with a remote hope that she or a member of her family would be outside,” Zazula said. “I’ve always been such a huge fan of the movie, I wanted to meet her, if even for a minute.

“On the fourth and final time I drove past her house, I saw a man in her front yard, putting something in a recycable bin. When I stopped and asked him if Virginia was here, he gave me a quizzical look and asked me why I wanted to know. I told him I just wanted to say ‘Hi’ to her.”

The man — who turned out to be Patton’s husband, Cruse W. Moss — invited Zazula into the home to meet his wife.

“I met Virginia and told her how big of a fan I was of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ and we ended up talking for close to a half hour,” Zazula said.

Zazula eventually invited Patton and her husband to that year’s showing of “It’s A Wonderful Life” at the Penn. She sat at a table in front of the theater, meeting and greeting fans and signing a few mementos.

“They showed the credits at the beginning of that movie and when Virginia’s name came up on the screen, the audience applauded and the look on her face was priceless,” Zazula reflected.

Patton passed away in August at the age of 97.

“Virginia told me she was never a fan of Hollywood because there were no role models for her,” Zazula said.

The next step

A crowd estimated to be close to 1000 people attended the show of support for the Penn Theatre

Elliott said Friends of the Penn will attempt to garner some national exposure from Thursday’s event — WDIV Channel 4 was present — before collecting all of the photos and videos and sending them to Paramount.

“I am confident they’ll change their minds after they see what unfolded tonight,” she said. “Tonight gives me hope.”

If you have a story idea for SocialHouseNews.com, please contact Ed Wright at 734-664-4657 or edwright@socialhousenews.com.

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Ed Wright

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