While moviegoers tend to treat American cinema as existing outside the government channels we see in other countries, the truth is far more complex than that. The National Endowment for the Arts affects the industry in any number of ways: from directly supporting actors and playwrights in American theater to supporting organizations focused on education and exhibition, the NEA plays an important role in ensuring that filmmakers are given the tools they need to make their vision a reality. So when The Hill recently reported that the current administration was considering privatizing PBS and eliminating the NEA entirely, artists and educators were rightfully terrified.

And what better way to protest the devaluation of the arts than a public screening of George Orwell’s influential dystopian thriller 1984? IndieWire recently announced a plan by independent theater owners across North America to bring the film adaptation of Orwell’s novel to theaters for one day only. According to the event’s website  —  aptly given the name The United States of Cinema  —  the April 4 screening date is meant to coincide with the events of the novel, where Winston Smith begins to keep a private diary as an act of resistance against the government. The screenings will also be accompanied by special guest speakers and moderators where possible, with a portion of each screening going to “local charities and organizations, or using the proceeds for the purposes of underwriting future educational and community-related programming.”

Although some might roll their eyes at a simple movie screening having any lasting effect on the nation as a whole, in many small communities, these movie theaters are one of the few outlets available for people with a passion for the arts. As someone who grew up in a very small town  —  and, I’m proud to say, whose local theater is represented on the list above  —  I can speak first-hand to the importance of these cultural centers as a place for like-minded individuals to gather, discuss, and organize. The idea is not that people will watch 1984 and undergo a political wakening; the idea is for people with a passion for the arts to hear ways that they can support government culture spending and the National Endowment of the Arts even from their hometowns.

So circle April 4 on your calendar and be be sure to visit the United States of Cinema website to see if your local art house theater will be showing the film. At the very least, it’s another opportunity to celebrate the immense talent that was John Hurt.

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