Rick Kessler, owner and founder of Magic Lantern Cinemas in Ketchum, is fulfilling a dream that he has held since he first opened the movie theater 47 years ago: a full week of free screenings of the beloved 1942 classic “Casablanca.”

Nearly 80 years on from its initial release, “Casablanca” remains timeless, widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. It claimed three Academy Awards—Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay—and its lasting influence and popularity speaks for itself. Roger Ebert once remarked that he had never heard of a negative review of the film; Leonard Maltin called it “the best Hollywood movie of all time”; author and screenwriting guru Robert McKee declared its script “the greatest screenplay of all time.” The American Film Institute included six quotes from “Casablanca” on its list of 100 greatest movie quotes, and counted it No. 1 on its top 100 love stories.

With Valentine’s Day looming, “Casablanca” is ideal viewing, which is part of why Kessler is preparing a full week of free screenings of this beloved classic.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for the past 47 years,” Kessler said. “Putting ‘Casablanca’ up there for free—it’s just what I’ve always wanted to do. What better movie for Valentine’s Day? I really don’t know one.”

Set during World War II, the film follows American expatriate Rick (Humphrey Bogart), a disaffected nightclub owner in Vichy-controlled Casablanca. When his former flame Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) shows up with her husband Victor (Paul Henreid), a refugee Czech resistance leader, Rick is caught between his love for Ilsa and what remains of his moral compass, telling him to help Victor.

The all-star cast expands to include Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre under the direction of Michael Curtiz.

“‘Casablanca’ is universal for a lot of reasons, other than just the romance. It’s got everything going for it,” Kessler said. “There’s a difference between seeing a movie in a theater and watching it on your TV, no matter how good your TV is. There is, perhaps, no better movie to amplify the difference between watching a movie on TV or seeing it in a movie theater.”

“Casablanca” will screen daily with free admission from Friday, Feb. 12, through Thursday, Feb. 18 (though the Magic Lantern is closed Mondays and Tuesdays). For exact showtimes, visit mlcinemas.com.

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