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Though filmed in Welch, town had to scramble to screen ‘Glass Castle’


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Getting the movie based on Jeanette Walls’ memoir “The Glass Castle” to show in McDowell County — where the author spent her school-age years — didn’t require an act of Congress.

But it almost did.

Clothing from the 1970s is handed out to people in the “Glass Castle” scene filmed at the Mount View High School football field in Welch, March 2016.
(Photo by Chris Dorst)

The McDowell 3 Marquee Cinemas in Welch wasn’t originally scheduled to show the film when it was released nationwide on Friday. The closest showing was in Beckley, over an hour away.

By mid-week, the theater, the Marquee Cinema corporate office and Lionsgate Films production and distribution studio began fielding phone calls of complaint, including several from Delegate Ed Evans of Welch, who also asked U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin to step in.

Manchin’s office confirmed he, too, had been making calls on behalf of moviegoers in Welch and surrounding areas.

“I talked to everybody I could talk to, and I just wasn’t going to take no for an answer,” Evans said.

Late Wednesday, the movie theater confirmed it will be able to show the movie beginning with Friday showings at 3:40, 6:40 and 9:45 p.m.

In her critically acclaimed memoir, Walls shares her story of coming of age in a nonconformist, dysfunctional family.

She describes spending her school-age years in rural West Virginia, where she found her passion for journalism at Welch High School and developed her dreams of moving to New York City.

Walls, played by Academy Award-winning actress Brie Larson in the film, described her fear of sharing her story in an article published by the Los Angeles Times.

“It was, I had thought, a shameful story, one I’d hidden for years, a childhood filled with poverty, alcoholism and homelessness,” Walls said. “But it was also one filled with joy, pride and deep love. One day, challenged by my mother to ‘just tell the truth,’ I wrote the story.”

The book spent 261 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list and sold more than 2.7 million copies. The movie also stars Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts.

Pre-production for the film began in May 2016 in Welch, where locals posed as extras at Vic Nystrom Stadium, decked in maroon and white — just as it would have looked at a Welch High School football game.

Those who attended Welch High during that era, circa 1977, wore their letterman jackets and T-shirts in the spirit of the occasion.

In the scene, Larson strolled across the field taking pictures of the football game and interviewed a football player for a school newspaper story.

“When Jeannette started writing the book, she called me,” said Mount View cheerleading coach Cathy Jack when the film crew was in Welch. “She said she didn’t have any pictures of herself, so she wanted to borrow my yearbook.”

Jack still has a picture of the two in Little League cheerleading outfits.

“Jeannette was real friendly and smiled a lot. She kept a lot hidden, evidently, about what was going on in her life,” Jack said.

Many of the town’s residents were thrilled about the production crew filming in Welch.

Several scenes, including the football game and a scene at the local newspaper, were filmed there, though it isn’t clear which — if any — made the film’s final cut.

“People around here are getting anxious to see it, but I don’t really think there are any special events planned,” Jack said. “I just hope they didn’t delete the scenes with our kids in them.”

No opening night events in McDowell County had been announced as of press time. But it was important to screen the movie in McDowell County, said Evans, in part because of the potential for economic impact to the region.

“This can lead to economic development for McDowell County, because when the ‘Rocket Boys’ movie [‘October Sky’] came out, it brought people from all over the U.S. to McDowell County. So who knows what kind of economic development this could mean to West Virginia?” he said.

In Charleston, the Marquee Cinemas in Southridge will be screening the film at 12:40, 3:40, 6:40, and 9:35 p.m. on Friday.

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