Family Theater at the White House is occasionally used by presidents to rehearse major speeches such as the State of the Union Address each January, but more often it's where the First Family can watch just about any movie they please, often sent direct from Hollywood before its release.
According to this article in the Guardian Unlimited, many presidents have enjoyed private screenings of their favorite films in this luxurious, state-of-the-art theatre that features four comfortable arm chairs and forty red upholstered seats. So, what are some of the presidents' favorite flicks? According to the article:
Starting with All the President's Men - about the Watergate scandal that ultimately brought him to office — Jimmy Carter held 480 screenings at the White House over four years...The devout Baptist started off insisting that only family films be shown, but eventually relented and became the first president to watch an X-rated film at the family theatre: Midnight Cowboy...
Ronald Reagan watched very few films at the White House. He and Nancy watched most of their movies on their weekends at Camp David, preferring Jimmy Stewart movies, High Noon (the president's favorite), and, on special occasions such as the president's birthday, his own films.
Bill Clinton also loved High Noon, but his taste in movies mirrored the style of his presidency. It ranged from the earnest and complex — Schindler's List and American Beauty were among his favorites — to simple and earthy, like the Naked Gun movies.
George Bush is a fan of the Austin Powers series and has been known to raise his little finger to his lips in imitation of the characters Dr Evil and Mini-Me. Since the September 11 attacks, however, his viewing has become more somber. In early 2002, after the worst of the fighting was over in Afghanistan and plans were being hatched to invade Iraq, President Bush watched more war movies, like We Were Soldiers, about Vietnam, and Ridley Scott's soldier's-eye view of Mogadishu in 1993, Black Hawk Down.
Like his predecessors, President Obama rehearses speeches in the theatre and has enjoyed star-studded, pre-release screenings of such blockbusters as Julie & Julia (with stars Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci in attendance) and Slumdog Millionaire, as well as the HBO miniseries "The Pacific," with executive producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks in attendance.
And, last month, two stormtroopers and R2-D2 surprised reporters with an appearance in the White House briefing room while President Obama rushed to finish a press conference so he could watch the latest Star Wars film. A private, pre-release screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was held for Gold Star Families, an organization for those who lost family members in the Iraq War.
An avid sports fan, Obama also hosted a Super Bowl party in 2009 in the White House Theatre, where he and his guests tried out special 3D effects as they watched the Pittsburgh Steelers narrowly defeat the Arizona Cardinals by a score of 27-23. And when it came time for some Super Bowl snacks, the president rolled up his sleeves and personally served Oatmeal Raisin cookies to his guests.
Although that particular recipe might be difficult to find, you can try this one from Martha Stewart if you'd like to whip up a batch of Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies at your Super Bowl party this Sunday:
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours and baking powder; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Add flour mixture, and stir to combine; mix in oats and currants.
Using two tablespoons of dough per cookie, roll into balls; place on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper, 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until lightly browned, 15to 17 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Cool 5 minutes on sheets, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 5 days.
FAST FACT: According to the White House Museum website, the Family Theatre was converted in 1942 from a long cloakroom when the current East Wing building was constructed. Since then, some presidents have considered it to be the greatest perk of living in the White House, including Bill Clinton, who remarked, "The best perk out in the White House is not Air Force One or Camp David or anything else. It’s the wonderful movie theater I get here, because people send me these movies all the time.”
For more on my manuscript wish list and submission info click here!