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Gone in 60 minutes! No seats left for Travolta’s free screenings

John Travolta and the Ocala Film Foundation are hosting two free screenings of ‘Trading Paint’ in downtown Ocala, Florida

Ocala StarBanner
By Dave Schlenker
March 9, 2019


“Trading Paint,” rated R, stars Travolta as Sam Munroe, a veteran dirt-track driver who gets back behind the wheel amid some testy moments with his son, also a driver. The film features some high-intensity racing, and Travolta said he did his own driving in the film. Starring as Munroe’s love interest is Travolta’s longtime friend, Grammy Award-winning country-pop singer Shania Twain (the two met in Marion County when Twain was here to buy a horse).

Travolta, who lives in Anthony with his family, knows there are a lot of racing fans in Marion County. He said he wanted to provide a fun, free and accessible movie night for locals.

“The whole idea is to have popcorn and soda and have them enjoy it in a proper theater,” Travolta said last week. “It’s so good. I’m very proud of it. It goes to show that when you do something that is of personal interest to you, there’s always something about it that shines a bit more.”

The screenings were Travolta’s idea. The Ocala Film Foundation, a nonprofit that knows a thing or two about film screenings at the Marion Theatre, worked with the actor’s staff to organize the event.

“He did not want it to be a big red carpet event. He did not want it to be about him,” said Angie Lewis, the film foundation’s president.

OFF set up an Eventbrite site so people could reserve their free tickets. But the tickets were gone before OFF could post the link on their own social media sites.

On Saturday, Lewis said she knew the screenings would do well, but she said she was surprised — blown away, really — when the tickets disappeared so fast.

In addition to renting out the theater for the screenings and buying the popcorn, Travolta is donating $2,500 to the film foundation’s classroom scholarship program. The foundation awards $7,500 in grants each year; the money is divided among two high school seniors and two classrooms, which use the funds for film projects or equipment, Lewis said.

Since moving to Marion County in 2003, Travolta and his wife, actress Kelly Preston, have hosted several red carpet movie premieres in Ocala that have raised tens of thousands of dollars for local charities. And while the two stars take time to greet the general public on the red carpet, Travolta realizes not everyone can afford the events at the end of those red carpets. So he made a point to fund other film-related events for broader local audiences.

In 2010, he bought popcorn for fans during screenings of “Grease Sing-A-Long” in Ocala. And for the release of his 2013 film “Killing Season” with Robert De Niro, he gave away 700 movie tickets to randomly selected local fans who correctly answered trivia questions online.

He and Preston contend such events are a way to give back to a community that has treated them so well since they moved to Marion County. Such is the thought with the free “Trading Paint” event on March 20.

“My feeling was that I do a lot of these screenings. They are usually for charity, and that’s nice but only people who can afford it can go,” he said. “And I just felt this is one of those times it should just be a gift to the public.”

The film is in limited release, so, he said last week, he wanted to give local audiences a chance to see it.

“It’s beautifully shot. It’s so beautifully shot that it should be seen on a bigger screen,” he said. “And the man who directed this has won an Oscar for a film you just have to see, it’s so spectacular.”

That would be Kurdish-born Karzan Kader, who, while at the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts, won a student Oscar for his short film “Bekas,” which was made into a feature-length film in 2010.

“This is not a lightweight production. You’ve got some serious artists involved,” Travolta said about “Trading Paint.” “There are a lot of people who view this subject matter with respect and glamor. It is very true to form, and the story is heartfelt.”

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