Central-Pa. favorite 'Route 30' trilogy's final installment comes to York


Hollywood filmmaker John Putch's "Route 30" trilogy isn't only meant for the denizens of southcentral Pennsylvania.

But there's no doubt that locals just get it a little better than folks not familiar with the area around the twisting sometimes-highway, sometimes-back-road that lends the series its name.

"You either have to be from the area or know it really well" to fully appreciate the movies, said Putch, the trilogy's writer, director and producer. "There's another layer of knowledge and understanding" outsiders miss out on.

And it's that connection that both Putch and the local viewers have to the movies' environment that makes screenings of the movies feel so communal, the 53-year-old filmmaker said.

"It's sort of like showing a home movie to your family," said the native of Fayetteville, Franklin County. "They understand every single nuance."

The third and final installment in Putch's local-cult-classic trilogy — this one called "Route 30 Three!" — was released in summer 2014 and will be screened twice at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in York City on Saturday, April 11.

Screenings, one at 3 p.m. and another at 7 p.m., will cost $10 to attend and will include a question-and-answer session with Putch and some of the cast, including Mister Ed of Adams County's Mister Ed's Elephant Museum.

Putch said the series' "rabid fan base" in the area usually means the screenings just about fill up.

"I can't wait to bring it to York," he said.

Trilogy: He's pleased with the way his series turned out, especially considering the fact that he wasn't originally planning on making more than one "Route 30" movie.

"It wrapped up well," he said.

He said the first movie "had a lot of me in it" and was a little more melancholy, while the second one, replete with aliens and curses, was more farcical. This third installment has a bit of both, he said, but tends more toward the first one.

Putch said all three movies are linked, but they are meant to be accessible to people who haven't seen the others. But the third movie does hold some Easter eggs for fans of the series, he said.

"If you watch it and know the films, things will tie in for people paying attention," he said.

Local roots: Putch grew up in the Chambersburg area, living there until he was 22. His mother, Jean Stapleton, was a famous actress — she played Edith Bunker in the '70s sitcom "All in the Family" — and his father, William Putch, ran The Totem Pole Playhouse in Fayetteville.

It's from his formative years in central Pennsylvania that he pulls many of the people, themes and places he used in the filming.

"Everything is drawn on something I've seen, been to, lived or heard of that's germane for the area," he said.

But he said he's come to know the area so much better than he did while growing up.

"Whenever I'm there (making a movie), I stumble into some other place and I'm like, 'Oh my God, I never knew about this,'" he said.

One example of that was the Cumberland Drive-In Theatre in Newville, which was pointed out to him by a guy from whom he rented a motorcycle for one of the movies.

"It's sitting in the middle of a cornfield, like the baseball diamond in 'Field of Dreams,'" he said.

That's one of Putch's favorite parts about making these movies — finding local gems and sharing them through film. After all, he said, if he's not going to include it in a movie, no one is.

"No one's shot a movie in my hometown except for me."

— Reach Sean Philip Cotter at scotter@yorkdispatch.com.