On screen, Robert Redford will always be the Sundance Kid. Behind the lens, he's the Oscar winning director of Ordinary People and Quiz Show. In life, he set the standard for political and environmental activism.
To The Flicks, he will always be looked on as a sort of godfather. Not the Vito Corleone variety, but a man whose 1992 film A River Runs Through It steered the Boise independent movie theater to financial success, inspired an expansion to four screens and helped lay the groundwork for The Flicks to be the go-to destination for independent film.
"It was 1992 and The Flicks was only 7 years old," said theater owner Carole Skinner. "Quite frankly, we were in the red for the whole seven years. My husband and I were shoveling money into The Flicks like coal into a furnace."
However, it wasn't finances that inspired Skinner to seek out Redford and his then-just completed film, A River Runs Through It, based on the 1976 novella of the same name by author Norman Maclean—it was Skinner's love of the story, which celebrates the Rocky Mountain West and all things fly fishing.
When she heard Redford had directed the big screen adaptation, Skinner knew she had to secure a showing at The Flicks. Unfortunately, an award-season run of a big Hollywood feature wasn't in the cards for The Flicks in the early '90s.
"It was still pretty early in the emergence of independent film. There were a few pretty popular titles like Kiss of the Spider Woman and The Trip to Bountiful, but 1992 was still near the beginning of the independent film craze," said Skinner. "As a result, The Flicks was still off the radar for a lot of folks."
In the summer of 1992, then-Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus invited Redford to Idaho—the two had been friends since the '70s—to speak at a fundraiser at the Morrison Center.
"We heard there wasn't going to be a meet-and-greet after the event, so I jumped from my seat and followed him," said Skinner. "He was just about to get into a limo when I shouted, 'Robert Redford, Robert Redford, I want to meet you!' He was very gracious and shook my hand. I told him I was big fan of the book, and I was so excited about the movie and asked if he could put a word in for The Flicks to play A River Runs Through It. He said, 'It was very nice to meet you, but unfortunately I don't get involved in that.' They drove away, and I thought, 'OK, fine.'"
Several weeks later, there was a knock on the door hours before the theater was scheduled to open. Skinner didn't recognize the man standing there.
"I had no idea who he was, but I let him in," said Skinner. "It was David Carroll, head of sales for Columbia Pictures. Wow."
Skinner gave Carroll a tour of The Flicks, which was significantly smaller than the cineplexes that Columbia was accustomed to when showcasing its new features.
"I remember his words as if he said them yesterday. He said, 'I like you and I like your theater. I'll give you the movie to play exclusively, but you have to play it on both of your screens,'" said Skinner. "I called our good friends at National Trout Unlimited and said we would put on a big fundraiser for them when the movie opened."
On Oct. 9, 1992, A River Runs Through It opened to critical and box office success. At The Flicks, screenings were sold out for weeks.
"Lines were around the block," said Skinner. "But the really great news came on the Monday after the opening weekend."
That's when Skinner made her usual trek to a local bank to make her deposit. When the teller asked Skinner for identification, she was a bit surprised.
"I thought they only needed ID when you took money out; but the teller said they also wanted ID when we started putting large deposits into our account," said Skinner, with a huge smile. "We had been in the red all those years and now, we were in the black. More importantly, people were discovering The Flicks for the first time. It has only gotten better. A River Runs Through It made all the difference in the world. Who knows? Maybe we would have given up at some point. But after that movie, we started thinking about expansion. We added our third and fourth screens in 1997."
On Thursday, April 20, The Flicks will celebrate the 25th anniversary of A River Runs Through It with a special one-time screening at 7 p.m., presented by The Idaho Film Foundation, Rediscovered Books and The Cabin.
"Plus, it will be sponsored by our great friends at Trout Unlimited," said Skinner. "It's a gorgeous film, and it means so much to us."