‘Twas two weeks before Christmas and all through the house—was the smell of fresh popcorn and the sound of a killer 7.2 surround sound speaker system.

Yes, Brother Clarence Schenk’s little theater is open for business during the holidays, with a selection of movies that will knock your stockings off.

Eight friends and I had the pleasure of attending a Brother Clarence production last week. It was the 3D showing of Polar Express, a movie with a heart-warming message of faith and the Christmas spirit.

We took our seats; each adorned with a comfy pillow, and donned our black 3D glasses. Brother Clarence popped in the DVD and hit the dimmer, leaving only a strand of blue rope lights to illuminate the darkness.

Suddenly, big, juicy snowflakes were swirling in front of us. A young boy was staring out his bedroom window and we were with him, peering through the darkness, desperate to see Santa Claus.   

We went on the ride of our lives that night. The Polar Express roared through the snow-covered passes with each of us hanging on for dear life. I nearly lost my popcorn when the train brakes went out and we flew at break-neck speed over the Arctic Circle.

Polar Express is just one of several Christmas movies in Brother Clarence’s extensive library. Other 3D offerings include A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey and Arthur Christmas. The full list of movies, for the holidays and beyond, is posted on the website connect.collectorz.com/users/clarefsc/movies. 

How did a Christian Brother come to build such a sophisticated theater in the Joseph Alemany Community? Brother Clarence credits his childhood growing up in Los Angeles. “What else was there to do in the 1940s and 50s?” he says. “Our entertainment was going to the movie theaters.” He even worked in a movie house after school and on weekends.

As an engineer and handyman, Brother Clarence wired classrooms for television at both De La Salle High School and Saint Mary’s College. Five years ago, he secured a small room down the hall from his apartment and began buying the components for a nine-seat digital theater. “The Brothers get a stipend. Mommy gives us spending money,” he laughs. “I accumulated it and when I had the funds, I made the purchases.”

With the recent addition of 3D, Brother Clarence is more eager than ever to share his movie palace with the Saint Mary’s community. The other night, several faculty members brought wine and pizza to the theater for a showing of Life of Pi. A few days later, some Psychology students saw Girl, Interrupted. “Quite a downer,” says Brother Clarence, yet he was happy to accommodate.  

But it was the showing of Batman that really brought out the best in the theater that Brother Clarence built. After the movie, he got the kind of feedback that makes an engineer smile. “Someone commented that I had the building shaking. That was a compliment to the sound system.”

To schedule your free movie showing, contact Brother Clarence by phone at 925-285-7573 or by email at cschenk@stmarys-ca.edu.

More Brother Clarence Christmas picks:

Call Me Mrs Miracle – Doris Roberts

Christmas with a Capital C – Ted McGinley, Daniel Baldwin

The Man who Saved Christmas – Jason Alexander, Kelly Rowan

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Brooke Burns, Henry Winkler

Trans Siberian Orchestra: The Ghosts of Christmas Eve – Michael Crawford, Ossie Davis.

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