WILLSBORO - When four friends started the Champlain Valley Film Society more than six years ago, screening 100 films to local audiences may have seemed difficult to fathom.
The organization will celebrate that milestone Saturday, Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. with a screening of the classic romantic-comedy "The African Queen" at Willsboro Central School.
This Academy Award-winning film stars Humphrey Bogart as the captain of a broken-down riverboat who teams up with Katharine Hepburn to take on a German gunboat during the early days of World War II.
The film represents the 100th movie shown by CVFS, and to thank the audience for its years of support, admission to "The African Queen" is free.
In the spring of 2003, Larry Barns, Thurston Clarke, Bill James and David Reuther joined forces to show Steven Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" at the theater in the Willsboro School, and the Champlain Valley Film Society was born.
Their focus was on showing high-quality films that may not be shown in commercial theaters and other award-winning films that aren't often shown on television.
"Our mission is to show movies as they were meant to be seen; on a big screen and with an audience," said James. "It's so much better than watching a film by yourself on your television."
Five more films followed that first summer but audiences were slim. In 2004, they moved the movies outdoors to the garden behind Essex Inn where crowds were larger, but conflicts with the weather and other summertime events made it difficult to put on successful showings.
In 2006, the society began to show movies indoors during the winter, and word of their critically-acclaimed film screenings spread further. When Vermont filmmaker Jay Craven came later that fall to introduce his movie, "Disappearances," the show drew an audience of more than 300.