By Morgan Bryce
Opelika Main Street is organizing a free public showing of the film “Norma Rae” at Courthouse Square in downtown Opelika Sept. 27, beginning at 7 p.m.
According to Opelika Main Street Director Ken Ward, the reason behind organizing this event is to celebrate the movie’s 40th anniversary this year, which was largely filmed at various locations across the city, including the Golden Cherry Motel and heavily damaged Leshner Mill.
Released on March 2, 1979, the movie stars acclaimed actors Beau Bridges and Sally Field, who later won an Academy Award for “Best Actress” for her role in the film. Norma Rae is based on the life of Crystal Lee Sutton, a North Carolina textile worker who fought to unionize her mill in the hopes of seeing improved wages and working conditions for herself and her fellow workers.
Since its release, the film has garnered waves of mostly positive reviews from fans and critics alike, including the distinction of it being selected in 2011 by the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress “for being culturally, aesthetically or historically significant.”
Prior to the movie showing, Ward said several individuals who were extras or involved with Norma Rae’s production will share about their contributions or favorite memories tied to the film.
Between now and the event, Ward encourages the public to visit the Museum of East Alabama and view the exhibit that houses artifacts and a poster tied directly to the film. He added that the museum is lending its copy of the film to be shown that evening.
East Alabama Medical Center, Jeffcoat Trant Funeral Home and Crematory, Winston Smith T Building Supply and Zazu Gastropub are the event’s major sponsors. Ward said plans are under way to have food at the event, but encourages visitors to “visit and patronize some of the great (eating) places that are in downtown Opelika.”
Pairing many Opelikians’ deeply rooted love for the film with the Opelika High School football team’s bye week and Auburn University’s SEC home opener agaist Mississippi State the following day, “very large crowds” are expected at the event, according to Ward. He said that visitors should come early with their blankets and lawn chairs to enjoy that evening’s festivities.
“For those in town for the Auburn game and maybe aren’t acquainted with Opelika, it’ll be a great chance for them to come here and explore. I hope they, along with people who are here for this, enjoy eating and shopping at the great restaurants and businesses that we have to offer here in downtown Opelika,” Ward said.