Classic Film Series

Big screen memories at the Rio Grande Theatre


There is something about walking up the steps into a movie theater. The buzz of the audience, the smell of the fresh popcorn. The remembrance of a simpler time of enjoyment and wonder.
Now entering its fifth season, Rio Grande Theatre (RGT) presents the 2023 Classic Film Series. When the film series premiered, programing featured films previously shown when the Rio Grande Theatre was just a movie house. Soon after, the film series moved to showing the 100 Classic American Films.
“There’s kind of this magic in getting to see an old film back on the big screen. You get to enjoy it in the way that the filmmaker intended,” said RGT Interim Theatre Manager Topher Lininger,
For this season, Lininger said the theater leaned more toward films from the 1970s and ‘80s. There will be 11 more films this season, three of which have special dates or meanings. “Charade” is going to show on June 10 in honor of the film’s 60th anniversary. “Stardust” will show Aug. 5 in honor of the film’s 16th anniversary.
Lininger said he has a soft spot for “Charade” because he was a huge Cary Grant fan growing up and Audrey Hepburn was an amazing American actress who did so many wonderful things.
Other films on the schedule this year are “Spaceballs,” “Cry-Baby,” “The Dark Crystal,” “Fantasia” and “Roman Holiday.”
Part of what has made the Classic Film Series successful is nostalgia. Lininger said people have come out more after the pandemic to see actors on the big screen. Often, the audience visiting the RGT will remember taking their children to a showing of the feature film at the theater. Or maybe they were the child taken to see the classic movie.
“We get a lot of people that come in and are like, ‘I remember sitting in here back when you use to bring in a milk carton cap as your token to get into the theatre,’” Lininger said. “They always light up when they talk to their family members about the film they are about to see because they remember seeing it here or in another city and wanting them to experience the same feeling.”
Lininger said before each season he and his staff will sit down and throw out ideas for what kind of themes or what will be a good representation for an entire collective series. Once there is a list of 12-15 titles, the calendar is spaced out to prevent similar movies from being shown back to back.
In taking the time to review the schedule, RGT can plan for pictures with anniversaries, oriented around holidays and with special meanings.
This season, in addition to the two anniversaries, “V for Vendetta” will be shown Nov. 5 and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” will kick off the holiday season Dec. 2.
During planning for this season, the RGT staff wanted to be more welcoming to children and families. In the past, many of the classic black-and-white films have been adult oriented and since the movies were older, many of the jokes and references went over kids’ heads.
“We thought it would be fun to try and incorporate some classic films that were more family friendly so the whole family could come out,” Lininger said.
Rock-musical-style movies also tend to be received well by the Las Cruces community, which is why RGT is bringing back David Bowie and Prince movies.
When RGT was using the 100 Classic American Films, it was also taking recommendations from Film Las Cruces and New Mexico State University film students. The NMSU students would give ideas of classic films they had heard of but weren’t regularly screened.
“It’s really nice to come out and re-enjoy something. And the greatest part about that is you get to share an old film that you might have remembered as a child or remember from your family that your friends don’t know about,”Lininger said.
For more information on the 2023 Classic Film Series or the Rio Grande Theatre, visit or call 575-541-2290.

Sylvia Quintanilla is a freelance reporter and may be reached at

Rio Grande Theatre Classic Film Series, Desert Exposure April 2023