There's something special happening every spring and fall at the Alamo Drafthouse in Winchester, Virginia. On March 16th to 19th a small, dedicated film community will gather for Lost Weekend VII, a festival celebrating indie, foreign, documentary, and genre features. Ticket holders will spend four days together watching twenty-three films not usually screened in local theaters. The jam-packed schedule can be found here. It showcases how hardcore Winchester film fans are with show times beginning at 10 a.m. and ending after midnight, resulting in a marathon of seven to eight movies a day. While the community’s passion is one of the many things that make Lost Weekend so special, it all revolves around the chosen films.
On February 22nd, founder of Lost Weekend, Andy Gyurisin, hosted a preview event unveiling the trailers for each of the chosen features. The preview kickstarts the excitement for the mini film fest with Andy's infectious personality radiating through the crowd as he introduces each trailer with a few details and a dramatic whisper of, "What will it be?” His enthusiasm is matched with cheers from the audience and a genuine excitement to experience these films together. Since beginning in February 2014 with only eight films—including The Hunt, A Field in England, and Upstream Color—Lost Weekend has established partnerships with various distributors, allowing them access to not only more films, but more advance screenings. For this weekend alone fourteen of the twenty-three films will be advance screenings ranging from Fantastic Fest favorites like Colossal and The Invisible Guest to BAFTA winner I, Daniel Blake, and more: The Commune, Women Who Kill, Slack Bay.
While there isn’t always an intended theme, Andy spoke of a desire to highlight international cinema this year, "To me it is utterly important to show that outstanding stories and powerful filmmaking can happen outside the borders of our country." With features and documentaries from Sweden, Hungary, Denmark, Iran, Germany, and Japan he’s certainly focusing the eyes of the audience on stories from around the world. Even watching the trailers hints that viewers are likely to discover that these distant stories hit close to home. Lost Weekend is a celebration of that discovery, of the universality of cinematic stories and their power to unite us.
Andy Gyurisin has been uniting people in Winchester through their love of cinema since 2008. The Winchester Film Club, now known as Film Club 3.0, originally met in a bookstore he owned with his wife, Jennifer, and eventually relocated to their home after selling the business. Realizing there was increasing demand for a broader variety of cinema in the Shenandoah Valley led Andy to partner with Steve Nerangis at the Alamo Drafthouse in 2013. The affiliation has enabled him to expand the club, hosting weekly screenings of films locals would have previously had to travel miles out of their way to see. After over 300 screenings, Film Club 3.0 has surpassed its humble beginnings of 100 members to more than 2300. Some recent titles include Elle, Neruda, and two sold out screenings of I Am Not Your Negro. The community continues to show up, proving that there is indeed demand in Winchester for these types of films.
Aside from providing a fantastic lineup of films, Lost Weekend also endeavors to give back to the community. Sponsors for Lost Weekend VII include more than 40 local businesses, institutions, and individuals who contribute monetarily in support of the event to promote their companies. The goodie bag each attendee receives upon arrival is loaded with special discounts and promotional materials for local record stores, museums, and restaurants. The Film Club also hosts a silent auction throughout the weekend with a variety of items donated by the sponsors. Proceeds this year will go to the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS), an organization providing shelter to those less fortunate. In previous years the money raised has allowed Film Club to start their own independent video store of sorts by donating a copy of every film they screen to Winchester’s Handley Library. Andy's hope is that combining a love for film with giving back to local businesses and charities will demonstrate the power of cinema within a community. In the last three years Lost Weekend has raised more than $13,000 for area non-profits, proving that this community has only just begun to demonstrate that power.
Due to a modest number of tickets and the overwhelming dedication in the area, passes for the spring Lost Weekend sold out only a few hours after going on sale. If you’re local or just passing through you may still be able to get into some screenings via standby lines. Otherwise I recommend keeping an eye out for tickets to Lost Weekend VIII in the fall. Barring that you can catch Film Club 3.0 screenings every Wednesday and Sunday where the man himself, Andy Gyurisin, is always there to greet every member by name. Those who frequent any Alamo Drafthouse are familiar with a certain level of camaraderie that comes from inhabiting the same space with others who share an appreciation for cinema. In Winchester, Virginia the community has empowered that appreciation to extend beyond the theater to help one another as well as others in need. What Andy and Film Club continue to accomplish during the Lost Weekend events demonstrates the power of cinema to not only create family out of community, but to inspire people to work together to make change happen.