Classic country music film presented by Opera House

Heartworn Highways is available to stream. Proceeds benefit the Fredonia Opera House.

Country music fans are in for a treat as the 1891 Fredonia Opera House Performing Arts Center presents a remastered version of the classic country music documentary Heartworn Highways, streaming through March 4 in the Opera House Screening Room.

In the mid-1970s, filmmaker James Szalapski documented the then-nascent country music movement that would become known as “outlaw country.” Inspired, in part, by newly-long-haired Willie Nelson’s embrace of hippie attitudes and audiences, a younger generation of artists including Townes Van Zandt, David Alan Coe, Steve Earle and Guy Clark popularized and developed the outlaw sound. It borrowed from rock, folk and bluegrass, with an edge that was missing from mainstream Nashville country. Now newly-restored, this documentary includes rarely-captured performances of the aforementioned musicians as they perfected this then-new style and helped change the course of country music history.

The hard living — and hard partying — lifestyles of outlaw country’s figureheads are played out on screen as viewers visit Van Zandt’s Austin trailer, see Coe play in Tennessee State Prison, join the gang in Nashville’s notorious Wig Wam Tavern and witness a liquor-fueled Christmas at Clark’s house. No wonder the film’s original tagline read: “The best music and the best whiskey come from the same part of the country.”

The Opera House Screening Room provides movies and other digital programming to its patrons in the wake of the continued COVID restrictions which prevent the theater from opening. The cost of streaming the films ranges from $4.99 to $12 per household, depending on the film. The revenue generated is shared by the Opera House and the film studios. “Since we are unable to reopen yet, this is one way of providing our patrons with access to programming, and of generating income for the Opera House to help ensure its survival,” says Opera House Executive Director Rick Davis.

Every two weeks, a new batch of films is offered; each batch is launched on Friday. The current round of films also includes The Fan Connection, filmed in Buffalo about Buffalo Sabres fans; The Food Club, in which three lifelong friends travel to Italy for more than just the food; and M.C. Escher: Journey to Infinity, the story of the world famous Dutch graphic artist told through his own words and images.

The Opera House Screening Room is found on the Opera House web site at www.fredopera.org. Links for each film take the patron to third-party studio sites for ticket purchase. Tickets are per household. Patrons are able to view the films on nearly any mobile device, smart TV, laptop or computer.

The 1891 Fredonia Opera House is a member-supported not-for-profit organization located in Village Hall in downtown Fredonia. Currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, the theatre is offering a variety of digital program offerings to continue its mission of “present the performing arts for the benefit of our community and region … and providing access to artistic diversity … and high quality programming at an affordable price.”


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