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Dogs on the big screen, and in the seats, of Buskirk-Chumley



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Jake, a 7-year-old rescue dog, lounges with his owner Susan Krieg at a showing of short films from the New York Dog Film Festival on Sept. 22 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. The showing was open to dogs on leashes that were fixed and up to date on their rabies vaccinations. Joy Burton Buy Photos

Gilda walked into the theater and down the aisle to sit in the front row. A red-and-white striped popcorn box sat beside her. 

But she didn’t sit on the red seats of the theater. Instead, she sat on the floor and eventually lay down. 

She looked up to toward the stage as a projector screen draped behind her. Peter LoPilato stood at the front, introducing the event. 

“Hello and welcome!” LoPilato said. “Sit! Stay!” 

It was the latter half of his message that applied to Gilda, a labrador. 

Gilda was one of over a dozen dogs Sunday at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater for the New York Dog Film Festival. The event, organized by LoPilato, showed “Lady and the Tramp” as well as two films of nearly 75 minutes from curator Tracie Hotchner, the host of National Public Radio’s “Dog Talk.”

“The idea is for people to get used to the idea of non-humans seeing movies in theaters,” LoPilato said. 

Ginger Snap, a chihuahua, sat in the back row, nestled in the arms of her owner Linda Lightner. It was her first time out with her owner, who rescued Ginger Snap just over a month ago when Lightner found her dropped off near her house. 

“I felt like it was almost meant to be," Lightner said. So I kept her.”

Ginger Snap isn’t the only dog that’s been dropped off at Lightner’s house — it happens to her often. Lightner also has two cats .

Ginger Snap's name came from the color of her fur and Lightner’s love for ginger snap cookies. 

Lightner keeps Ginger Snap upstairs in her home’s television room. She quickly realized her dog loved watching TV, perking up and staring at the screen every time they watched. It was a perfect fit to bring Ginger Snap to watch a movie on the big screen, still tucked in the safety of Lightner’s arms.

Ginger Snap isn't the only dog that was already an avid TV fan. A friend of LoPilato had a dog who loved watching “The Twilight Zone” at 4:30 p.m. every day. 

LoPilato has two dogs, one of which is a labrador-mix named Marloe, who came to the event for the evening showing. LoPilato has read about similar events elsewhere and wanted to bring them to Bloomington. The Ryder Magazine offers movie showings every weekend, but the Dog Film Festival, now in its second year, is one of his favorites. 

“Dogs have to appreciate a good film,” LoPilato said. 

The event charged $20 for an all-day pass and $10 for a single ticket. Children 10 and under were admitted free of charge. LoPilato plans to host a similar event for films with cats in October. 

As the lights dimmed, the clicking of cell phones and shaking of dog tags bounced around the theater. Dogs and humans alike sat to watch the film. 

And they all stayed. 

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