It has taken two years since plans were announced, but the feature film “Mayberry Man” is now a reality, with release dates coming up in September and a distribution plan which will make the movie accessible to the public.
Cort Howell, producer of the film, announced recently the movie will see its “official release” on Sept. 23 at Creekside Cinema during the 2021 Mayberry Days.
The film is scheduled for four showings a day Sept. 23 – Sept. 26, at 12:30, 3, 5:30, and 8 p.m. each day.
“We’ll be doing some meet and greets at the theater, maybe some Q&A, and we’ll even have DVDs, shirts, hats and posters for sale at the theater,” Howell said.
For folks who simply can’t wait until Mayberry Days, there are a few sneak previews set. One is Sept. 5 in Danville, Indiana, which has an annual Mayberry Festival and was one of several locations used in the movie, and the other is a daily showing at the Howell Theatre in Smithfield, from Sept. 10-Sept. 16.
The movie follows the fictional Chris Stone, a Hollywood A-list star who’s a brash, shallow, self-centered character who goes through life believing rules and responsibilities don’t apply to him. When he’s caught driving faster than 100 mph in a 45 mph zone, the young movie star shows contempt for the court proceedings.
That prompts a country judge to give Stone an unorthodox punishment — the hot shot actor is sentenced to a week at Mayberry Fest, an annual gathering of The Andy Griffith Show fans patterned in large part after Mayberry Days.
There, he learns a lot about himself, what’s important in life, and reconnects with his father, a fictional B-list actor who appeared in an episode or two of The Andy Griffith Show back in the day.
The Mount Airy, Smithfield, and Indiana screenings won’t be the only way for folks to see the movie.
“We know many people can’t make it to Mayberry Days or to one of our other theatrical events,” Howell said. So, beginning Oct. 1, the DVD will be available for purchase at mayberryman.com and at weaversdepartmentstore.com. He said the DVD has extra features, inclulding a documentary on the making of the movie.
He also has plans for distributing the movie at “select” theaters around the nation, and it will be available for streaming.
“Mayberry Man will be available to rent or purchase on at least one major streaming platform that everyone is familiar with,” he said, though Howell said all of the contract details had not yet been finalized, so he was unable to name the service.
The movie grew from a visit brothers Cort and Stark Howell made to Mayberry Days in Mount Airy. The two are sons of Hoke Howell, a character actor known for portraying hillbilly Dud Wash on the original series.
Stark Howell, an independent filmmaker and Hollywood storyboard artist, is serving as the writer and director for the film, while his brother, Cort, is serving as executive producer and spokesperson for the project. Stark Howell said he was inspired to make the movie after attending his first Mayberry Days festival in Mount Airy a few years back.
“I’ve always been a fan of the show, but I was shocked to discover the spirit of Mayberry still exists today within the tight-knit Mayberry fan community,” Howell said in a 2019 interview announcing the movie. “It’s the perfect setting to tell a modern-day, family-friendly story that expresses the virtues of the fictitious town of Mayberry that we all fell in love with so many years ago.”
Since the two brothers, along with Ronnie Schell, and their friends — some of the show’s original cast members (Maggie Peterson Mancuso and Clint Howard among them) as well as children of the original cast members, (including Karen Knotts, Dixie Griffith and George Lindsay) — have been busy raising money, hiring a cast and crew and filming the movie in Mount Airy, Indiana, and Los Angeles, among other locations.
The movie trailer is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ja3cQxv9Fws and Cort Howell has been uploading regular updates on the film, including additional screening details, at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1YuKjDB1ROhDOB6-uYf9hg