Movie Star

Meet Barry Steelman of Concord’s Red River Theatres, this year's winner of the NH Film Festival's Van McLeod Award

Barry Steelman has the name and dapper appearance of a Hollywood leading man, but his film career has been dedicated to providing places for cinephiles, like himself, to watch and appreciate great movies. Many still remember his fabled Cinema 93, but it’s Concord’s Red River Theatres, an independent, nonprofit, downtown movie theater, that will likely be his legacy. His influence as a purveyor and proponent of film just earned him the “Van McLeod Award” at this year’s NH Film Festival.

  • At Red River I act as a “programming consultant” with a film booking agent to make the best possible choices from the film selection that is available to us.
  • I have no formal training that qualifies me for this position, just years — actually over five decades — of experience in the entertainment business.
  •  Before going much further, let me distinguish what usually separates the terms “movie” and “film.”  … Ah, hell, whatever distinctions I could summon up are probably just high falutin “bird seed,” so let’s simply consider the terms interchangeable.
  • To make a movie that will play successfully at Red River in Concord, here’s the formula: A British drama, set in a historical time period, featuring Maggie Smith or Judi Dench. Voila!
  • A film that holds the record number of times I have watched it? It would probably be Sam Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch” (1969). “House of Wax” (1953) would be a close second.
  • Digital effects in movies are marvelous as long as they don’t supersede the human elements of the story being presented.
  • In consideration of film vs. digital cinema projection: I love film (celluloid), but I have never had to refocus a digital image.
  • References to me as Mr. Movies and Film Guru are cheerfully denied because they are usually followed by a cinematic question I don’t know the answer to.
  • Who should moviegoers be paying attention to currently? Film producers and directors who are not creating remakes, sequels or movies based on TV shows.
  • I keep threatening to purchase new TVs with the latest technological advancements to replace the very antiquated ones I am currently watching.
  • The ideal length of a film is one that doesn’t make the viewer regret remaining stationary throughout its running time.

The late Van McLeod (seen here on the right of NH Film Bureau chief Matthew Newton) was the NH Commissioner of Cultural Resources for decades and is still a legend to the many artists and filmmakers he encouraged and assisted along the way. His memory is honored each October at the NH Film Festival in Portsmouth with an award named for him. Steelman, who was a longtime friend of McLeod’s, was the 2018 recipient.



Categories: Q&A