‘West Side Story’ is somewhere … namely, TCM’s Classic Film Festival

12th annual event also offers related content on HBO Max

“West Side Story”

As with many other events, Turner Classic Movies’ Classic Film Festival took a different form by necessity last year.

This year, it’s using the same formula, but factoring in some lessons learned … and the advent of a second outlet for it.

The coronavirus pandemic again has negated staging the four-day festival in person in Hollywood, so the 12th annual edition will be a televised version offered on TCM starting Thursday, May 6. Ali MacGraw and Danny Glover are among performers receiving special tributes, and directors including Rob Reiner and Mira Nair will introduce films of theirs. Streaming-service “cousin” HBO Max will serve as a second venue, offering additional content on the Classics Curated by TCM Hub.

“Part of the thrill of the festival, and we’re not going to pretend it isn’t the case, is that you meet with other people and see these movies and talk about them,” says longtime TCM host Ben Mankiewicz. “Obviously, you lose that when you do this remotely. Last year, everything happened quickly, but we had time this year to figure out what programming we can bring …  including, through this wonderful partnership with HBO Max, all these pieces that we’ve put together over the years.”

The opening-night event of the latest Classic Film Festival will be a 60th-anniversary celebration of director Robert Wise’s “West Side Story,” featuring new interviews with several stars of the musical: Rita Moreno and George Chakiris, who both won Oscars for the movie, and Russ Tamblyn.

Steven Spielberg has directed a “West Side Story” remake slated for release this December, with Moreno again in the cast, but Mankiewicz believes the original film always will maintain a particular magic for both existing and new fans.

 “That’s a conversation that I love to have,” Mankiewicz says. “TCM fans have a commitment and dedication to what we do that frequently is a part of the fabric of their lives. Through movies, they feel this connection to their parents and grandparents and another time. People don’t like channels, they like shows … except for us. And we stand alone in that regard.”

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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