‘Casablanca’ on tap for Valentine’s weekend

On Valentine’s Day weekend, one of American cinema’s greatest love stories, “Casablanca,” will be screened at The Suffolk theater — marking a rare opportunity to catch the digitally-remastered film old-school style: on a movie screen in a dark room full of people. 

Singles, you’ll need a mate: tables for two for the Feb. 16 8 p.m. showing — which includes Prosecco and chocolate-covered strawberries — can be purchased through the theater’s website.

“The restored version of ‘Casablanca’ is spectacularly beautiful,” said Gary Hygom, the theater’s executive director. “You get to experience it in the way that it was originally meant to be seen.

“Every costume, the makeup, the lighting and absolutely everything that goes into those films was designed specifically for black and white,” he said.  

“I think on a big screen, you see the subtleties that you sometimes miss, sitting in your living room, being distracted.” 

At first, Mr. Hygom was hesitant to showcase a movie that premiered the same year Martin Scorcese was born. A classic film buff, Mr. Hygom decided the best move was to crowd-source the decision.

The Suffolk polled its Facebook followers, asking which of four movies they’d like to see on Valentine’s Day weekend: ‘Casablanca,’ ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ ‘The Way We Were’ or ‘Sleepless in Seattle.’

Mr. Hygom told himself the 1942 classic didn’t stand a chance with a modern audience against two wildly popular Meg Ryan classics.

He was “thrilled” when Casablanca prevailed.  

“I wouldn’t say ‘landslide’, but it was a significant win.”

Mr. Hygom’s love for classic cinema dates back to a film appreciation class he took at Shoreham-Wading River High School.

“I remember seeing ‘Casablanca,’ ‘Citizen Kane’ — some unbelievably great films — and we spent our time pulling them apart … really dissecting the film and talking about how it influenced all the [subsequent] films, and how I could see those influences in each one of those films.”

The film itself has a colorful backstory. 

Scheduled for release in 1943, studio executives moved up the ‘Casablanca’ premiere date after Allied forces invaded North Africa in early November 1942. The film debuted at the Hollywood Theater in Manhattan on Nov. 26, according to film critic Will DiGravio. 

Upon its release, Variety magazine predicted that the movie would “take the [box office] of America just as swiftly and certainly as [Allied forces] took North Africa.” 

Nearly the entire film was shot on a Burbank, Calif. sound studio. Ingrid Bergman, who was still learning English between scenes, was known to play poker during down time. Elsewhere on set, Humphrey Bogart’s wife was said to regularly accuse him of cheating with Bergman, even though the two stars were never close — and neither even wanted to do the movie in the first place. 

The one time the pair had lunch together, to plot how to get out of shooting the movie, they complained that the “dialogue was ridiculous and the situations were unbelievable,” according to

Looking ahead, Mr. Hygom has big plans for old movies. 

He said he’s in the process of solidifying his choices for an upcoming classic film series, likely to include a St. Patrick’s Day showing of John Ford’s 1952 rouser ‘The Quiet Man,’ which was filmed in western Ireland and stars John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.

A previous campaign to screen second-run blockbusters at The Suffolk didn’t take off. 

“People didn’t really respond,” Mr. Hygom said.

So he’s happily pivoting back to his beloved classics, and welcomes input from the community on the upcoming series. He said film buffs can email suggestions to [email protected].