The Greenbelt Theatre is a historic art deco movie theatre that originally opened its doors back in 1938 and it has gone through several different changes in management over the years. The last owner has pretty much given up on the place so it has been taken over by a relatively new non-profit group that’s trying to experiment in opening it as a worker-owned cooperative. It underwent much needed renovations before it reopened to the public a couple of months ago.

Right now the theater is busy paying off debts from those renovations so it can’t afford to hire too many people. But the theater has come up with the next best thing: If you volunteer to do work on a single shift, you get to see the movie for free. I’ve done it myself a few times and I found that I liked it because I get to interact with the public in a way that’s reminiscent of my many stints working various craft shows selling my handcrafted wares. Plus I get to watch movies for free. (So far the ones I’ve seen have been a mixed bag. I liked some films while others have nearly put me to sleep.)

So when I got an e-mail notification looking for volunteers to help with this special showing of two back-to-back documentaries made by Jeff Krulik, I literally jumped at the chance. I saw some of his documentaries at the Utopia Film Festival back in 2012 (The Legend of Merv Conn and Ernest Borgnine on the Bus) and he actually made a live appearance at the screenings I attended where he discussed the films that he made. The following year the Utopia Film Festival showed Krulik’s latest film, Led Zeppelin Played Here but I wasn’t able to make that screening because it was scheduled to be shown at the same time as I was slated to attend a committee meeting at my church after Sunday service. I had one other chance at seeing Led Zeppelin Played Here when it was being shown in Takoma Park the following January but I remember it was during one of those really cold Arctic chill periods and I just couldn’t face walking on the streets at night in extreme cold just to see a movie so I skipped it.

So now you know why I jumped at the chance to serve as an usher since I got another chance to see the Led Zeppelin Played Here documentary in the summertime with no Arctic winter cold blast or scheduling conflicts. The first couple of shots shows the outside of the newly renovated Greenbelt Theatre in all of its nighttime glory.

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Jeff Krulik was there and he personally invited a few guests to the screening so between those guests and the general public, I have to say that it was a very well attended show. (The fact that the show started at 10 p.m. on a Friday night just before the start of the weekend helped as well.) I took a few photos in between serving my volunteer ushering duties. (I basically took tickets and told them that I hoped they enjoyed the show.) I never got a chance to talk to him myself because he was surrounded by other people wanting to talk to him both before and after the showing of his two documentaries.

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The event was a double feature. The first film was Krulik’s first documentary, Heavy Metal Parking Lot, which I have long heard about because it has gained a cult following.

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Basically Krulik interviewed a bunch of heavy metal fans in 1986 who were having tailgating parties in the parking lot outside of the now-demolished Capital Center in Landover, Maryland while waiting for the upcoming concert featuring Judas Priest and opening act Dokken. Here’s a sample clip of the witty repartee of the heavy metal fans (many of whom were teenagers and young adults at the time) featuring a girl from my original hometown of Glen Burnie, Maryland.

For the record, no, I don’t know who this particular girl is but I’ve met other kids similar to her, though during my high school years at Old Mill Senior High School. These kids were basically potheads who lived to go to concerts by the likes of Van Halen or Ted Nugent while buying the souvenir t-shirts that they would wear to class the next day like they were some kind of a prized trophy. (LOL!)

Heavy Metal Parking Lot ran around 17 minutes while the feature movie, Led Zeppelin Played Here ran about an hour. As Krulik explained after both movies were shown, he originally intended to make a documentary about a series of music festivals that were held at the Laurel Race Track back in the 1970’s which featured performances by some of the biggest acts of the day until he began to hear from the people he interviewed about a local legend that went like this: Shortly before Led Zeppelin hit major superstardom, they went on a tour of the U.S. in order to support their first album where they played a variety of venues big and small. Among the smaller venues—according to that legend—was the Wheaton Youth Center. Supposedly that concert was held on the same night as Richard Nixon’s Inauguration in 1969 and it drew no more than 50 people. There were people who swore that they saw the band play there. The only problem is that there wasn’t any hard evidence (such as a poster or ticket stubs) so Krulik decided to do some detective work to learn, once and for all, whether this legend was true or not.

I have to admit that it was a fascinating film as Krulik went through the evidence, including interviews from the people who claimed to be there that evening. In addition, the film mentioned that a variety of up and coming acts actually played at the Wheaton Youth Center (many of whom could be documented with photos and other hard evidence) like Iggy Pop.

After the last movie ended, Jeff Krulik had a short question and answer session in the movie theater before the event ended. Then he retreated to the lobby where people surrounded him with questions and comments, which you can see in the last few photos.

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So I had an enjoyable evening and it was the start of an action-packed weekend which included visiting my mother, going to a bingo event that benefitted my support group for people who are separated or divorced, a tie-dye event at my church, and going to the Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School event in Washington, DC.

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