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Restored 'Lost Horizon' Finds Fans

September 06, 1986|CLARKE TAYLOR

NEW YORK — Film buffs lined up at the Museum of Modern Art this week to see an early, 132-minute version of Frank Capra's "Lost Horizon" that has been recently restored after nearly 50 years. The New Yorkers were the latest among the unexpectedly large audiences that have turned out in a dozen other cities across the country this summer to see the 1937 black-and-white film about an earthly paradise called Shangri-La.

The restored film, which had been cut to a 110-minute version soon after its initial 1937 release by Columbia Pictures, premiered in Los Angeles in June and will return for special showings Oct. 18, 25 and Nov. 1 at the Monica. The film is also booked for 30 more cities this fall.

"We have had success beyond our wildest dreams," said Dennis Doph, national sales manager for Columbia's classics division, which is distributing the restored film. "We expected a respectable commercial run, but nothing like the outstanding grosses we have had from the outset."

He estimated grosses from the release of the restored film to date to be "deep into six figures," with box-office returns "running about even" in all regions, from Los Angeles, to Washington to Salt Lake City. In San Francisco, for instance, the film reportedly grossed $22,000 in four days at the Castro, where a weekly gross for a revival averages $14,000 to $15,000.

Based on the novel by James Hilton, and adapted for the screen by Robert Riskin, Capra's film stars the late Ronald Colman as a diplomat who is kidnaped and enlisted as the new leader of Shangri-La, a Utopian community hidden in the Himalayas where everyone lives for hundreds of years in perfect tranquility. The film also stars Jane Wyatt, as Colman's love interest in Shangri-La, and the late Sam Jaffe as the High Lama. It cost an estimated $3 million to $4 million to make, a monumental sum in the 1930s.

"There is something about the idea of a Utopia with peace and brotherhood that's very appealing," said Karen Pettibone, a member of Thursday's audience at the Museum of Modern Art. She echoed the view expressed by dozens of others, young and old, who attended the two sold-out screenings at the museum's 500-seat auditorium. She added: "It's old-fashioned, but it's still a wonderful film."

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