THE AUTOMAT: May 20-29

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May 20, 21, 27, and 28 at 7:30 • Sunday May 22 and 29 at 4:30 & 7:30 IU Radio & Television Theater • Purchase Tickets
Iconic, elegant, and populist all at once: the automat revolutionized American dining a century ago, long before there were fast food restaurants or hipster coffee shops. Patrons inserted nickels into slots, and slices of lemon meringue pie, mac & cheese, baked beans, and creamed spinach magically appeared from a grid of gleaming chrome windows. Then there was the eatery’s signature 5-cent coffee, cascading from ornate dolphin-headed spouts. To describe the clientele as eclectic would be an understatement. Everyone ate there–young and old, rich and poor, famous (Audrey Hepburn, pictured above) and infamous (Allen Ginsberg). Mel Brooks, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Colin Powell, Carl Reiner, and others pay effusive tribute to this communal Art Deco home away from home. Says Brooks: “You didn’t need a lot of money. You needed a lot of nickels.” Debut filmmaker Lisa Hurwitz combines rare artifacts, images, and memorabilia (including personal photos and deeply affectionate stories from former employees and the founding family) to create a love letter to pie and nickel coffee. (79 min)

CRITIC’S PICK! Sweet and shaggy. An engrossing tale of cultural harmony. Plunges us… into states of delight and visceral lament. Rapturous accounts of the women who changed dollars into nickels… Brooks goes gaga at the thought of the Automat’s coconut custard. FEELS LIKE THE KEY TO SOME LOCK ON THE AMERICAN SOUL. – Wesley Morris, The New York Times

I LOVED THE AUTOMAT. It is something special: a mixture of fragrant recollections and astute social history. What’s surprising in the extreme is how moving the film can be in evoking those places of welcome during an era of American optimism. – Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal

Pandemic Protocols: Filmgoers will no longer be asked to wear their masks once they are seated in the theater. However, filmgoers must be vaccinated and should be prepared to show proof of vaccination. Please continue to bring a photo of your vax card. Minors (under 18) have the option of presenting a dated, negative Covid test. Seating will be capped at 35% of capacity.

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