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7th Ogden’s Big Lebowski Festival hits Peery’s Egyptian Theater this Saturday

By Deann Armes - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Nov 9, 2021
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Costume contest at Ogden's Big Lebowski Festival 2019.
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Costume contest at Ogden's Big Lebowski Festival 2019.
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Ogden's Big Lebowski Festival 2019.
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Ogden's Big Lebowski Festival 2019.
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Costume contest at Ogden's Big Lebowski Festival 2019.
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Costume contest at Ogden's Big Lebowski Festival 2019.
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Ogden's Big Lebowski Festival 2019.
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Costume contest at Ogden's Big Lebowski Festival 2019.
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Ogden's Big Lebowski Festival 2019.

An entire festival dedicated to the 1998 Coen brothers cult classic “The Big Lebowski” is back in Ogden at Peery’s Egyptian Theater this Saturday at 6 p.m. for its seventh year, and if you don’t like it, “Well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”

Arguably the most quotable masterpiece in cinema history, starring Jeff Bridges as “The Dude,” as well as John Goodman, Steve Buscemi and Julianne Moore, the dark comedy is so rife with quirky characters, addictively repeatable lines, standout costume design and hilarious plot-twists (and a rug that ties the room together) that it proved festival-worthy, as annual gatherings have sprouted up at locations across the country.

It was around 2010 or 2011 when the nationwide Lebowski fests started happening, festival founder and independent filmmaker Ryan McDonald said Nov. 1 during an episode of “Strangers Have The Best Conversations,” a weekly live podcast recorded at Lighthouse Lounge with host Paddy Teglia. There wasn’t one in Utah, he said, so he created a Big Lebowski Fest with friends in his own house.

After unsuccessful attempts to persuade the national Big Lebowski Fest to make Utah one of its stops, McDonald went to the Egyptian Theatre Foundation, on which he serves as board member, and Ogden’s Big Lebowski Festival was born.

The festival, complete with the film screening, a costume contest, trivia and White Russians, is also a fundraiser for the Egyptian Theatre Foundation — a nonprofit that is close to McDonald’s heart.

An Ogden native and lifelong movie buff born in the ’80s, McDonald remembers seeing “The Big Lebowski” in the movie theater when he was around age 13. He frequented the now-shuttered Riverdale Cinedome of his youth. “I remember my dad telling me about the Egyptian Theater, and the stars on the ceiling,” he said.

After studying film in college in Orlando, McDonald returned to Ogden and joined the Egyptian Theater Foundation that oversees the ongoing preservation, maintenance and improvement of the historic 1920s movie palace.

The Egyptian Theatre Foundation, originally a group of concerned Ogdenites called “Friends of The Egyptian Theater,” formed in 1985 to stop the intended destruction of the theater. Not only did they succeed, the group raised enough community support to replicate and restore the Egyptian Theater to its former grandeur with all the original details down the paint color.

During the “Strangers” interview, McDonald said the foundation’s current focus is to “bring in a new audience to find that love for it and carry the passion forward.” “Time has passed and it continues to need a foundation to raise money to keep it updated,” he said.

The festival, which McDonald refers to as a “labor of love,” has grown steadily but has yet to really “explode,” he said. In its first years, it was a two-night festival with a bowling event followed by the film screening on the second night, which he said he’d love to see happen again. The 2019 festival was a great success and they were excited to keep the momentum for 2020, but like most events that year, it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ogden’s Big Lebowski Festival is bringing back what made it a big hit in 2019. A cash bar returns to sling White Russians and other Lebowski-themed cocktails, but this year there will be two bars to avoid long lines. And a pre-screening lobby party, starting at 6 p.m., includes trivia and costume contests, and plenty of “mingling with lots of Urban Achievers.”

Ogden’s Own Distillery is helping with the spirits and Five Wives Vodka to be used in the White Russians and pre-party cocktails.

Prizes always include a rug and other memorabilia such as a whale sounds CD (fans know) and books about “The Big Lebowski.” This year, a brand-new bowling ball from Storm Bowling in Brigham City will go to one lucky winner. Other prizes come from small Ogden businesses like Lavender Vinyl and local restaurants.

The Egyptian Theater Foundation presents the 7th Annual Ogden’s Big Lebowski Festival at the Peery’s Egyptian Theater on Saturday, starting at 6 p.m. with a pre-screening party in the lobby. Theater doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the film screening begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22/$15 in advance. Purchase tickets at ogdenpet.com/events.

There is a special “Big Lebowski”-themed Vinyl Night at Lighthouse Lounge at 7 p.m. Wednesday for the 21-and-over crowd. All who want to get an early start in celebrating the Coen brothers’ masterpiece are welcome.

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