Posted by Jeremy Pittenger on January 16, 2015
When he’s not in the classroom, there’s a good chance that Gerald Butters, Professor of History, can be found in a movie theater—or at least writing about the silver screen. He’s weaved his interest in history and his love of film into three books. His most recent publication, “From ‘Sweetback’ to ‘Super Fly’: Race and Film Audiences in Chicago’s Loop,” will be the subject of the next Celebrating Arts and Ideas Faculty Speaker Series event on Tuesday, January 20, at 7:00 p.m. in Perry Theatre.
The new speaker series provides an additional opportunity for AU faculty to share their expertise, research and interests with students and community members. Through these presentations, they explain how their “discovery of what matters” is advancing their own development and that of their students.
Butters uses film as an educational tool. “Virtually all of my research and publication involves film history,” he said. “I believe that films can reflect the dreams, desires, mentalities and fears of a nation. I often have my students complete film analysis in my history classes.”
For his most recent book, Butters wanted to learn more about the theater scene in Chicago during the 1970s. “My family moved to Chicago in 1999, and I learned that there were a significant number of large, cavern-like motion picture theaters in the Loop in the 1970s—but they are no longer there. I wanted to figure out what happened to them.”
Butters lecture will feature some of what his book covers: a wide range of issues that influenced the city’s theaters, from changing racial patterns to the increasingly decrepit state of Chicago’s inner city and the pressure on businesses and politicians alike to breathe life into the dying area. He will discuss how black-themed films were marketed and how theaters showing these films tried to draw in crowds, shedding light on race issues from different standpoints.