Pete Hammond

The 50th Anniversary celebration of the Academy Award winning 1962 classic, To Kill A Mockingbird just got a very high profile addition with the American Film Institute’s announcement today that the film will be screened tomorrow night, April 5,  at the White House  Family Theatre with an introduction from President Obama. The date also coincidentally marks the 96th birthday of the film’s star, Gregory Peck who served as Founding Chair of the AFI Board of Trustees from 1967 to 1969. It is also significant for the AFI since the Institute was  created in the White House Rose Garden in 1965 in a ceremony presided over by President Lyndon Johnson.

Among those attending will be the film’s Oscar nominated co-star Mary Badham, Peck’s family including wife Veronique, AFI Chair  Sir Howard Stringer , Universal President and COO Ron Meyer, U’s Chairman Adam Fogelson,  U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and AFI President and CEO  Bob Gazzale. Also in attendance will be a group of students from DC area schools.

With yesterday’s announcement that the President will also introduce the film for the  USA Network’s broadcast of the digital restoration on April 7th, the film is getting a strong boost for its half-century milestone. The AFI previously named Atticus Finch  as the greatest hero in the history of American Film.

To Kill A Mockingbird  is an American treasure – a film of family and fatherhood, justice and equality – all so richly embodied in the character of Atticus Finch. We are honored to screen the film in the White House, where AFI was born,”  said Gazzale.

As part of its year-long Centennial Universal is digitially restoring 13 classic titles including To Kill A Mockingbird which was nominated for 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture, won 3 (including Peck as Best Actor), and ranks 25th on AFI’s  list of greatest American films.

In addition to the AFI, White House and USA Network events, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced this week that on April 11 they will showcase the film’s new digital restoration at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills  in a special screening hosted by Tavis Smiley and featuring an on-stage discussion with Badham. The next day the Academy will also screen the film for 400 Los Angeles Unified School District high school students as part of its ongoing Media Literacy Program.

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