Call it a local-loving threepeat of sorts: For the third time in as many years, the AFI Fest, one of our city's largest film festivals, will open with a movie that's about, well, movies.
"Saving Mr. Banks," the Tom-Hanks-and-Emma-Thompson-starrer, will kick off the festival at the Opening Night Gala at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Thursday, Nov. 7. "Banks" follows Walt Disney's quest to film "Mary Poppins" and his often bumptious but ultimately creative relationship with author P.L. Travers.
The other two recent AFI Fest openers with Hollywood cred? Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar" got the 2011 festival going, and, true, while it wasn't strictly about Hollywood, the FBI director did have ties to Tinseltown, and movie stars like Ginger Rogers and Shirley Temple were referenced in the film.
And the 2012 opening treat was none other than "Hitchcock," a movie that has a bit in common with "Saving Mr. Banks," considering that they're both about visionary filmmakers trying to bring a beloved if challenging project to the screen in early 1960s Southern California. (The focus of "Hitchcock" was the making of "Psycho.")
While there may not be a fourpeat in 2014 as far as Tinseltown-focused opening night films at AFI Fest, we do like all of the local love and find it a filmic fit at an event organized by the American Film Institute. And even more fitting in regards to the choice of "Saving Mr. Banks" to screen at the festival's main location, the Chinese Theatre? "Mary Poppins" premiered right there, in 1964, and, yes indeed, Walt Disney and P.L. Travers were both in the audience.
Could either have guessed that their story would appear on that very screen nearly 50 years later?
Well, not that actual screen: The Chinese Theatre is now the home to one of the world's largest IMAX screens, a mega feature that will make its debut on Sept. 20 with a 3-D "The Wizard of Oz."
The AFI Fest 2013 presented by Audi unspools at various Hollywood locations from Thursday, Nov. 7 through Thursday, Nov. 14.