COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL)— Today, the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts is bringing a century-old Halloween classic back to the theatres. Screening tonight, the 1925 silent film of the Phantom of the Opera featuring Lon Chaney. What’s more haunting than the Phantom himself? The scary-good cause.

“On the day of the show, come to the theater in costume, you get $5 off. Come to the theater in costume with a canned good, or one or the other, or both, and you can get $5 off,” Executive Director of the RiverCenter, Norman Easterbrook, told WRBL. “You can do both and get in for free.”

Housed in the same building, The RiverCenter for the Performing Arts are collecting canned food items to donate to the Schwob School of Music’s Food Pantry.

“It’s really important that we support the Schwob School of Music Student Food Bank, especially as we come up on the holiday season when people are going to be in vacations and things like that,” Easterbrook said. “There are a lot of students that stay behind here in Columbus when many of the support facilities for them are closed. And we think that a student coming to the university has got everything going for them, but many of them don’t. They’re coming here to learn their craft, ply their skills, so it’s something we’re happy to do.”

About the Schwob School of Music’s Food Pantry

Columbus State University has a pantry that serves the entire college; the Schwob School of Music’s pantry was created in 2019 to serve the 250 students in the downtown area.

“About 20% are international students. And they don’t have cars and they don’t have easy ways to get to grocery stores,” Director of the Schwob School of Music, Dr. Scott Harris, shared. “There aren’t a lot of grocery stores in this area. In fact, there are none in the proper downtown Columbus area. So, it’s a combination of the needs they have because they can’t get to the store quickly and easily.” Dr. Harris went on to say many of the rehearsals and practices extend well beyond the hours of grocery stories or restaurants downtown.

“Our students are really, really busy. They are here often from seven in the morning until midnight,” Dr. Harris said. “Just the ability to even get off campus, to get back home, to eat a meal is sometimes not easy or not even possible. So, it serves all those needs.”

International student and clarinetist Jonathan Anuforo first joined the Schwob School of Music remotely in August of 2022 while living in Nigeria. He made the move to Columbus this January.

“When I first got here, it was a bit difficult to access the grocery stores. So, the food pantry was helpful. As an international student, I didn’t know my way around at first. Then the food pantry was the place I usually visited,” Anuforo said. “Also, for every student, most times we practice to midnight. As the director said, sometimes past midnight, sometimes to 2 or 3 a.m. just to get some stuff done.”

Anuforo says being a part of a program that supports its students is imperative.

“Schwob is one, I would say one of the best schools in the United States, because it’s not just about impacting knowledge in the student. It’s also about the support, the give,” Anuforo said. “I’ve got a lot of friends who are studying in some schools in the United States, and they don’t get as much support as we get here in Schwob. So, I think it’s an amazing thing about the school and the professors.”

The pantry collects more than just food items, they’re also looking for linens, cleaning supplies, furniture, and more as many of their international students come to study in the states with just a suitcase.

“It’s really grown in scope. So, we now have a whole set of volunteers, for instance, who will assemble before the opening fall semester and put together welcome baskets for all of our international students so that when they get here, they have things as prosaic as toilet paper and cleansers ready to go so they can move right into apartments that they’ve rented,” Dr. Harris said. “And then volunteers work through throughout the throughout the season as well to restock the pantry. And we take donations of things like furniture as well because some of them rent unfurnished apartments. And we’re able to hook donors up with students who need furniture, and students that need to get rid of furniture, so it’s a great partnership.”

For bigger items, the Schwob School of Music asks those wishing to donate to call ahead. Office hours run Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

What to Expect at the Phantom of the Opera

Tonight, at the RiverCenter, Easterbrook says folks can anticipate, ‘plain, straight out fun in the theater.’ Despite the lack of sound on the 1925 film starring Lon Chaney.

“In those days the theater organ was the surround sound for the movie, if you will. So, what’s going to happen at 7:30 this Saturday is we’re going to have that silent picture. Ron Carter is going to come down from the Strand Theater in Marietta. He’s played this movie for years. It’s a completely different experience,” Easterbrook said. “The thing is, is that it’s really unusual because there’s no there’s no audio language coming from the film. So, you have to read their faces and the subtitles. And the audience has a completely different behavior. People shout out, ‘Wait, stop, don’t go there!'”

Sound from The Wave will accompany the silent film. The Wave is a GW4 theatre organ featuring four manuals replicating 33 ranks of a pipe organ.

“This organ is unlike any organ you would hear in a church, or you would hear in a concert hall. This organ has a xylophone on it. It has timpani on it. It has a police siren on it. It has a train whistle on it. It’s the sound effects essentially for the silent picture era,” Easterbrook informed.

The Wave was a donation to the RiverCenter from the Atlanta Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society. The Phantom of the Opera is just one show a part of the 2023-24 series featuring The Wave. Additional show times and performances can be found, here.

Tickets for the screening tonight start at $10; again, donating food items and attending in costume will earn attendees up to $10 off.