We wondered what the folks of Milan, Ind. (pop. 1,300), thought about "Hoosiers"--which was inspired by the real-life town's 1954 championship team.
We really didn't have to ask: "You kidding? We were thrilled!" declared Roselyn McKittrick, owner of the local eatery, the Milan Railroad Inn. A 30-year resident of Milan, McKittrick helped to organize the festivities when the movie opened in Batesville (Milan doesn't have a theater), "about 20 miles down the road."
"The town bought out the entire first show. We went over in a train of five buses and 35 cars. And we had Cadillacs carrying our ball players--just like they did in '54," she told us. (The Caddies were furnished by Chris Volz Motors--same dealership that furnished cars in '54.)
Seven of the original 10 Milan champs came in for the festivities, which began with a pep rally at the high school and included a reception and a buffet supper. Then came the trek to and from Batesville--complete with police escort and fire trucks from the Volunteer Fire Dept.
"Oh, it was so neat," said McKittrick. "Wonderful to see all those faces from Milan together in that theater. We got to share something special. You know, in Indiana, everyone knows about Milan."
But the rest of the country doesn't. Which is why the town was a teensy bit hurt by the fact that Milan never gets an on-screen credit. Nor is there any mention that the film is based on a story that really happened.
"It's true, we would have liked some kind of credit," said McKittrick. "Otherwise, we have no complaints."
In fact, opening night turned into a moneymaker for Milan. All the funds went right back into the town--to the Athletic Boosters Fund, the Community Park Fund and the Volunteer Fire Department Fund.
Reviewers for the local papers also were unanimous in their praise for "Hoosiers."
"We all loved it--a lot," said Katherine Peters, editor of the nearby weeklies, the Versailles Republic and the Osgood Journal (with a combined circulation of 13,000, and a combined staff of three).
In the Greensburg Daily News (30 miles from Milan; staff of six), Jim Ludeman praised the film as "nearly flawless," adding: "The film crew caught everything from Indiana corn fields to main streets in Small Town, Indiana, and did it perfectly."
"Hoosiers" recently ended its run in Batesville after playing to a packed house (all 436 seats). It's still playing throughout the state--and in the Los Angeles area. And Orion Pictures just opened the film wider (it's now at 116 theaters in the Western part of the country). Grosses as of last week (when the film was only at 23 theaters): just under $2 million.