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SLFS to fill June movie screens with 18 classic musicals

If “La La Land” sparked or re-sparked your love of big screen musicals, then June may be your lucky month.

Beginning Friday, the Salt Lake Film Society is featuring four weeks of musicals at the Broadway and Tower theaters, offering moviegoers a rare opportunity to see some beloved classics like “Singin’ in the Rain” and “West Side Story” on the big screen.

The musical program is the chosen theme for this year’s Greatest series, an annual event that allows the SLFS to “celebrate the art of filmmaking,” according to a statement from the society. Each year, the SLFS honors a chosen category — last year’s series highlighted films from black directors — and selects an associated lineup based on criteria such as “quality of filmmaking, cultural significance and emotional resonance,” according to the statement.

This year the organization opted for musicals.

While this year’s lineup features 18 films, the SLFS is careful to acknowledge that its program isn’t comprehensive. According to programmers, “The Greatest isn’t meant to be definitive, it’s meant to be a moment … to identify and discuss our current social landscape through the proverbial mirror of film.”

Each week, a new group of films begins a seven-day run, moving chronologically through some of the celebrated Hollywood classics that inspired last year’s “La La Land,” all the way to a few 21st-century musicals of note. Admission will be the standard ticket price.

Here are a few highlights from each week of the program.

Week one, June 2-8: 'The Wizard of Oz'

Based on the book by L. Frank Baum, 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz” tells the fantastic story of a teenage girl named Dorothy (Judy Garland) who, after getting swept away from her native Kansas by a tornado, has to find her way through a colorful, magical and often dangerous wonderland to get home. “The Wizard of Oz” has charmed audiences for decades with iconic characters like the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion, and it’s hard to think of a movie song more instantly identifiable than “Over the Rainbow.”

Also featured: "Carmen Jones," "Singin’ in the Rain," "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" (June 3 only)

Week two, June 9-15: 'A Hard Day's Night'

After years of campy Elvis Presley movies, it was easy to understand how Richard Lester’s “A Hard Day’s Night” might have taken audiences by surprise in 1964. This sharp and witty black and white comedy, following a day in the life of the Fab Four, was a perfect 87-minute capsule of Beatlemania. The script makes time to get to know John, Paul, George and Ringo, matching scenes of clever banter alongside music videos for early era Beatles classics like “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “If I Fell” and “She Loves You.”

Also featured: "West Side Story," "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg," "Fiddler on the Roof"

Week three, June 16-22: 'Grease'

Even in the 1970s, nostalgia for the sleek cars and slick hair of the 1950s was high, as evidenced by George Lucas’ pre-“Star Wars” classic “American Graffiti.” But where Lucas stocked his soundtrack with the hits of the era, 1978's “Grease” let the actors do all the singing. “Grease” is a romping doo-wop love story, matching a leather-clad teenage greaser named Danny (John Travolta) with a poodle skirt-wearing good girl named Sandy (Olivia Newton-John), who rethinks her image after 110 minutes of upbeat tunes like “Summer Lovin’” and “You’re the One That I Want.”

Also featured: "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Cabaret," "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas"

Week four, June 23-29: 'Moulin Rouge'

“Moulin Rouge” comes from Baz Luhrmann, the director who located Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” in the gun-toting teenage hands of Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Daines. Set in decadent turn of the 20th-century Paris, 2001's “Moulin Rouge” pairs up a lonely writer named Christian (Ewan McGregor) with a popular courtesan named Satine (Nicole Kidman), and decorates their love story with a visual onslaught underscored by musical mash-ups of popular songs like the Police’s “Roxanne” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” as well as originals like “Come What May.”

Also featured: "Purple Rain," "Dancer in the Dark," "Once," "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (June 24 only)

If you go …

What: SLFS The Greatest series

When: June 2-29, times vary

Where: Tower Theatre, 876 E. 900 South; Broadway Centre Theatre, 111 Broadway

How much: $9.25 adult; $6.75 senior, child and matinee