How often does this happen? Not very often, I think.
Whenever I think of White House screenings of films, I immediately recall D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation being making history as the first motion picture film to be shown at the White House. Woodrow Wilson was prez at the time, and there was that comment he allegedly made about the film: "like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true."
Read on from the press release…
LOS ANGELES, CA, April 4, 2012 – The American Film Institute (AFI), in conjunction with USA Network and Universal Pictures, will celebrate the 50th anniversary of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD at the White House on Thursday, April 5 and with the nation on Saturday, April 7. AFI was created in the White House Rose Garden in 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson set a national mandate to "bring together leading artists of the film industry, outstanding educators and young men and women who wish to pursue the art form as their life's work."
President Obama will introduce the film at a special screening in the White House Family Theater with an audience that includes children from DC area schools as well as Mary Badham, who portrayed Scout in the film; Gregory Peck's family, including wife Veronique; and AFI Trustees Sir Howard Stringer, Chairman of Sony Corporation, Ron Meyer, President and COO of Universal Studios and Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO. Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, is also expected to attend. President Obama will then celebrate the film with the nation through a special primetime broadcast on USA Network at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT on April 7.
"I'm deeply honored that President Obama will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by introducing it to a national audience," said Harper Lee, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel on which the movie is based. "I believe it remains the best translation of a book to film ever made, and I'm proud to know that Gregory Peck's portrayal of Atticus Finch lives on – in a world that needs him now more than ever."
"TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is an American treasure – a film of family and fatherhood, justice and equality – all so richly embodied in the character of Atticus Finch," said Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO. "We are honored to screen the film in the White House, where AFI was born, and to partner with USA Network and Universal Pictures to inspire generations of movie lovers to discover and rediscover this classic American film."
AFI proposed the anniversary celebration to the White House in early January and learned last month that President Obama would be available to participate on April 5 – a timely date as it marks the late Gregory Peck's 96th birthday. Peck had a long association with the American Film Institute, serving as Founding Chair of the AFI Board of Trustees from 1967 to 1969, and receiving the AFI Life Achievement Award – the highest honor for a career in film – in 1989.