The 25th Anniversary
Lifetime TV’s Original
World Premiere Movie
“will be an even
bigger deal than
it was before.”
Jerry Vasilatos’ 1993 feature, Solstice resonates through generations. Following an individual’s journey from disillusionment to happiness, the film reaches a level appeal and credibility that is strengthened by the creator’s own personal experience.
The premiere of Solstice’s 25th Anniversary restoration will be the main attraction of a celebration at Music Box Theater on December 18.
According to Vasilatos, the film is about a young man named Nick Allman who is “trying to deal with the helplessness he feels about making a difference in the world.” During a bout of the blues on Christmas Eve, Nick meets several people who ultimately help him realize “what Christmas is all about.”
Solstice began as a therapeutic writing exercise that Vasilatos practiced decades ago to deal with the same kind of young person’s blues. It was typical stuff: career not exactly going where it should, memories of imperfect breakups, bad economy, people suffering around the world.
Like the main character in the film, Vasilatos was able to lighten his load with help from friends, strangers, and a very specific Chicago holiday tradition.
“One Christmas, some friends took me to the Music Box’s annual Christmas Singalong,” he recalls. “I noticed how the event helped bring people together and had such a great time that I figured the character could experience it as well.”
Then as now, in real life and on film, the story helps viewers learn “how to make things better on an individual level without being overwhelmed by the larger problems in the world.”
Vasilatos funded Solstice with proceeds from a personal injury settlement that he had received after losing his leg in a tragic accident. “Back in 1992, I decided to take my settlement and produce a project of my own,” he recalls.
Upon the film’s completion, he took the advice of a friend and started to work on “making some of his money back.”
He approached David Sikich, one of his former professors at Columbia College and the producer’s rep who, along with John Iltis, had helped launch Hoop Dreams into a successful orbit in the mid-1990s.
“Dave put me in touch with Shel Beugen at Video Media Distribution,” Vasilatos recalls. “Shel knew that it could fit into an hour time slot on TV, so he pitched it to Showtime, USA, and Lifetime.”
At pretty much the same time, Lifetime was looking for an inaugural film to help launch its holiday-themed Original World Premiere Movie. As luck would have it, Solstice was the perfect fit.
“It was licensed for two years and broadcast into millions of homes in 1994 and 1995,” says Vasilatos. “This was kind of a big deal back then.”
In many ways, next week’s screening will be an even bigger deal than it was before.
Over the past two years, Vasilatos has digitally restored the film from the original camera negative in 2K to a point where “it looks better than it did in 1993 when it was completed.” He has also added a completely new musical score composed by Balint Sapszon and performed by the Budapest Scoring Orchestra.
The evening will begin with a musical set by the acoustic duo of Christina Vasilatos Ballester (Jerry’s sister) and Tom Mulroy. It will continue with an audience sing-along featuring Music Box organist Dennis Scott, followed by a presentation of the vintage, Chicago-made, stop-motion animated Christmas short, Hard Rock, Coco and Joe.
After screening a behind-the-scenes featurette titled, Spirits of Christmas Past and the Making of Solstice, the Solstice 25th Anniversary restoration will light the place up.
Paul Ciolino, host of the Popo Report on WLS Radio, will emcee the festivities.
Vasilatos is also coupling the event with a Toys for Tots campaign. He encourages attendees to bring new, unwrapped toys to add to the collection box that will be presented to the organization on the following day.
“If I never make another film,” he explains, “at least I can leave this one looking the way I want it to look and sounding the way I want it to sound for posterity.”
To learn more about Solstice Music Box premiere, click here.