Biking To The Band: "The Last Waltz" Returns To The Big Screen

Bryan Gibson

Updated Mon, Jul 9, 2012 11:16 am

Since its theatrical release in 1978, Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz has been a small screen experience.

Whether it was on a blurry VHS tape or late-night cable TV (with commercials), it was obvious that something was missing.

Even on a crystal-clear, super-duper hi-def 1080p Blu-ray disc, you just knew you weren't seeing the film how it was meant to be seen.

On Saturday, July 14, Stuart's Opera House will change all that with a free screening of The Last Waltz, presented by Athens Bicycle.

"I have never seen the film on a big screen and always thought it would be good to see it in its proper setting," said Athens Bicycle owner Peter Kotses. "So you could say there is a personal motivation, but I also would like to share what I think was an incredible gathering of the best talent of that time."

Filmed in high-resolution 70 mm and featuring a veritable parade of 1960s and 1970s rock stars, The Last Waltz is widely considered to be the greatest concert film ever made.

Conceived by Scorsese and Band member Robbie Robertson, the film captures The Band's swan song at San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom on Thanksgiving 1976.

Guest performers included Neil Young, Muddy Waters, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, and most notably, Bob Dylan, whom The Band backed up during his infamous 1966 world tour.

With Levon Helm's recent passing, there has been a renewed interest in the film and The Band's music. However, Kotses said this screeening had been in the works months before.

"His death in April did bring the planning back to the front of my plate, but we would have been just as happy--hell, happier--to present this with more remaining members still around," he said. "I did pick up Rock of Ages the day after I learned that Levon was gone and spent a long time with it. I won't forget that anytime soon."

Although one of Kotses' personal goals was to see the film on a big screen, he was also motivated to create a community event.

"I remember the first time I saw the film. If we get some first-timers, or ones who have never seen it on the big screen, we'll feel like we have delivered a great event. Plus, we love what Tim and his folks are doing up there at Stuart's Opera House," he said.

Kotses has also figured out a way to work his love of cycling into the event. A group ride will leave the Athens Bicycle shop on Stimson Avenue at 5:30 p.m., traveling up the Hockhocking-Adena Bikeway to Nelsonville.

Bike lights will be available for the ride home, plus secure parking will be available near Stuart's.

"In larger cities, it's common to have secure bike parking at events," Kotses added. "This is the first time that it's happening here. Hopefully people will see or hear about this and take steps to include it at their events. Almost every large venue in the area has a very good connection to the bikeway, so I feel this is feasible goal. Imagine if you could reduce the amount of cars at a football game or a concert by 1%. If you have 10,000 cars at an event that would be a reduction of 100 cars. One-hundred fewer cars at any event would be a big footprint reduction."

It might not be what "Marty" had envisioned all those years ago, but for Kotses, The Band and bikes are a winning combination.

"We're a bike shop and we, along with the people we know, love to ride," he said. "If we can do something that brings a few new faces to Stuart's, then it's great for everyone."

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