RED BANK: IT’S COOL, AND FREE, AT THE BASIE

The Count Basie’s free summer film series continues on Tuesday with screenings of ‘In the Heat of the Night’ and Guardians of the Galaxy.’ 

While the venerable venue once known as the Carlton can trace its cinematic lineage way back to the silent-screen age, the grand auditorium of Red Bank’s  Count Basie Theatre put in many decades of service giving the local moviegoing audience what it couldn’t always get at home — from glorious technicolor and stereophonic sound to that all-important enticer known as air conditioning.

That said, even the antique nickelodeons found ways of convincing viewers to part with their nickel — but in a summer where the ever-evolving arts center has taken its place among the most successful entertainment stages in the United States, the A/C’s fine and the film watching is on the house, courtesy of the free summer film series that kicked off in June with a “sold out” screening of Jaws. The eclectic slate of offerings returns this Tuesday with two distinctly different features that, each in its own way, feel like summer.

Set in the humid atmosphere of the powderkeg 1960’s South, the Oscar winning 1967 drama In the Heat of the Night  takes a movie-ready murder mystery and ratchets up the tension, as a black big-city detective named Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) is forced to worked alongside a bigoted small town police chief (Rod Steiger) to solve a crime layered with  some inconvenient elements of sex, money, and steamy secrets. Norman Jewison directs a cast that includes the always worth watching Warren Oates, in a feature that spawned a pair of “Mr. Tibbs” sequels and a long-running TV series with Carroll O’Connor; while the film might have lost some of its edge, it still retains a simmering power (with occasionally explosive blasts of energy) that’s embodied to perfection by Poitier in one of his greatest roles.

The Heat is on at 1 p.m. — while at 7 p.m., the Basie doors open once more for a multiplex blockbuster of recent vintage: the merry Marvel Studios space opera Guardians of the Galaxy. Picking up the day’s theme of different races overcoming distrust to work together toward a common goal — and running away with it to the far corners of the megaverse — the light-hearted adventure cemented the Marvel brand’s dominance at the box office; making movie stars out of some of the comic book empire’s lesser known characters (including Starlord, Rocket Raccoon, and the steadfast tree-man Groot); tossing in ample laughs and an infectious mix-tape soundtrack of ancient classic rock hits. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Michael Rooker and some curiously cameo’ing guest stars put on a show, in the feature that rolls at 7 p.m.

While admission to either of Tuesday’s screenings is fully free of charge, you’ll need a ticket to get in, and that can be arranged in advance by taking it here or stopping in (early, as recommended) at the Basie’s box office. The series concludes on Friday, July 28 with a 7 p.m. showing of the original Karate Kid that’s unfortunately sold out.

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