More than two dozen movie buffs are about to put their knowledge of the silver screen to the test on a chilly Monday night in March. So far, most have been breezing through questions asked by John Panicola, host of the festivities at Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, but a stumper in the Strong Female Leads category has some contestants staring into space and reaching for a sip of wine.
"Kathy Bates, Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary-Louise Parker and Cicely Tyson. Can you name this film by its cast members?" asks Panicola as the question appears simultaneously on the Sky Room Cafe screen.
However, one contestant does a fist pump, and another gives a loud whoop, suggesting that at least two know the movie in question is "Fried Green Tomatoes."
This brainteaser at the cinema on the first Monday of each month poses questions on Hollywood history from the silent era to the present. As many as 50 people show up to compete solo or in teams of two to six.
"For questions, I go all the way back to the first Oscars in 1927," says Panicola, 37, of Huntington, who is also the cinema's operations manager. A movie fan since childhood, he comes up with 60 questions for each contest -- classics and recent releases, actors, awards and just about anything you'd learn by sticking around for the credits.
"The questions range from common knowledge to something that's more nuanced," Panicola says. "Sometimes we'll take a film that you'd assume everyone knows, but ask a question that's more difficult, such as a supporting actor's name." Panicola tries to vary the questions so they challenge both men and women and older and younger film fans. "We're trying to introduce the cinema to a younger generation," he explains.
He runs the show like a lighthearted Alex Trebek, serving as both interrogator and judge, marking the answer sheets and announcing the winner. Contestant Shawn Sempowich is feeling confident as the scores are tallied.
"I think we did all right," says Sempowich, 31, of Huntington. His team, which includes Kerri Callaghan, 30, of Huntington, had recently won contests back to back.
But it's the two-person team of Andrew Wang of Woodbury and Tom Scarola of Halesite, both 35, that wins a $30 cash prize per player for a score of 63 out of 70.
"Ever since I was a kid, I have really enjoyed going to the movies. I would always be able to just lose myself in film," Wang says. He did his homework a few years back by watching each entry on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 greatest movies. The trivia contest "probably appeals to my competitive side as well," Wang says. Scarola and Wang say they plan to return with their wives on Monday.
Panicola piques their interest with a "coming attractions" announcement he makes at the close of each trivia night. One of the six categories for April, he says, will be the films of Tom Cruise.
Movie Trivia Night
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Monday, Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington
INFO 631-423-7611, cinemaartscentre.org
OTHER MOVIE EVENTS
If you want to be the reigning king or queen of movie trivia, here are some upcoming events to help you brush up.
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Thursday, John Drew Theater at Guild Hall, 158 Main St., East Hampton
INFO $8; 631-324-4050, guildhall.org
Film noir and detective movies are popular trivia subjects, and "Chinatown" is a shining example. Roman Polanski's 1974 classic, starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, is being shown by the East Hampton Film Society.
WHEN | WHERE 1:30 p.m. Saturday through April 12, Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St.
INFO $5; 631-724-3700, smithtownpac.org
Disney is another popular category, and films from the Mouse House will be spotlighted all next week in Smithtown with showings of "Toy Story," "Cars" and "Sleeping Beauty." A sing-along version of "Frozen" kicks things off Saturday.
'An American in Paris'
WHEN | WHERE 2 p.m. April 8, Landmark at Main Street, Port Washington
INFO Free; 516-767-1384, landmarkonmainstreet.org
What won best picture in 1951? The answer: "An American in Paris," starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron.