‘Gone in 60 Seconds’ Cult Classic to Play at Veterans Memorial Museum, Thanks to Producer

Unusual Agreement: 1974 Film to Be Played as Royalties Are Waived Out of Respect for Veterans

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When it was released in 1974, the independent film “Gone in 60 Seconds” was a hit, grossing $40 million. The action film, which includes a 40-minute car chase scene, was made in the days before computer-generated imagery.

On set, 127 cars were destroyed or damaged.

Now, thanks to an unusual collaboration between the Veterans Memorial Museum in Chehalis and a movie producer, the film will be shown at the museum’s upcoming “Movies by the Dashboard Light” outdoor movie theater on Saturday, June 26.

“Gone in 60 Seconds” was written, directed, starred in and produced by H.B. “Toby” Halicki. He also did all his own stunts. After the original film’s crashing and smashing success, Toby and his wife Denice Shakarian Halicki began filming a sequel in 1989. They bought over 400 cars to destroy for the film. Tragically, when Toby was preparing for a radical stunt, a 160-foot water tower fell on top of him, killing him instantly.

The rights for the movie went to Denice.

After speaking with Chip Duncan, the executive director of the Veterans Memorial Museum, Denice and producer Michael Leone chose to allow the museum to show the 1974 film royalty-free. They’ve also given the museum approval to publicize the event and advertise with the name of the movie, which they were not able to do with the previous outdoor movie showings.

For Leone, the museum’s mission to honor veterans hit close to home. He told The Chronicle his brother was in the Marine Corps in 1987 and went on to work in outreach to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Veterans, you know, look at all the stuff they did for us. I wouldn't be here in the U.S.A. (without them). You gotta really try to help them out. That film gets screened all over the world and we get paid royalties for it, but when it comes to the veterans you know, you gotta help them out,” Leone said. “So (Duncan) reached out to me and I said ‘absolutely, let's do this.’”

Thanks to the producer’s permission, 100% of the proceeds from the event will go to the Veterans Memorial Museum. Entrance is by donation, and there will be popcorn, candy and hot dogs available to purchase. 

Duncan is a member of the Gamblers 500 movement, where members spend less than $500 to fix up or purchase cheap cars, which they then use to go pick up trash left in forests and parks. His passion for cars is also evident in the car shows hosted by the museum, including the Hub City Car Show last year, when permits couldn’t be obtained to hold it on the streets of downtown Centralia.

The diverse range of people finding common ground at car shows makes them important events to the museum director.

“It’s neat to see this congregation of young and old, and they’re coming together over a common thing: a car. And you know, just all different backgrounds, all different financial ability, it’s just a community thing. Even if you don’t have a car, you can come and look at the cool cars,” Duncan said.

Growing up, he rented “Gone in 60 Seconds'' on VHS and watched it repeatedly, calling it “iconic” and a cult classic for the car community. That sentiment was echoed by Leone.

“USA Today calls it one of the greatest car chase movies in history. It's number one. It’s always in the lists of the top five or top ten car chase movies, the original,” Leone told The Chronicle.

In 2000, Denice licensed and produced a remake, loosely based on the original, starring Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie, which was also a success.

Space at the Veterans Memorial Museum movie nights is limited. To ask about availability or make a reservation, call 360-740-8875.

To read more about “Gone in 60 Seconds,” visit gonein60seconds.com.

For more on the Veterans Memorial Museum and upcoming events, visit veteransmuseum.org, or their Facebook page, @chehalisveteransmemorialmuseum.

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