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UICA to show holiday classic “The Polar Express” on the big screen, with pj party and cocoa bar

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Grand Rapids, MI. — The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) is excited to announce the big-screen showing of the film “The Polar Express” along with a storytime reading of the book that inspired the film. In 1985, West Michigan native Chris Van Allsburg published the now-classic holiday story inspired by his magical childhood memories of shopping at Grand Rapids-based Herpolsheimer’s and Wurzburg’s department stores. The book was critically recognized both for its story and illustrations, and the artwork of “The Polar Express” earned Van Allsburg his second Caldecott Medal for illustration of an American children’s picture book (his first was for his 1981 work, ”Jumanji”).

Each year UICA selects a holiday film to screen, and this year’s decision was based, in part, on the desire to celebrate the work of local artists. On the heels of the December 7 UICA Holiday Artists Market, an event that shines a spotlight on shopping locally for holiday gifts directly from the local artisans, the showing of a West Michigan-based cinematic gem couldn’t be more timely. The adventure-filled day will start with Jordan Carson’s reading of the Chris Van Allsburg classic, “The Polar Express.” Then, guests will continue the holiday fun with a screening of the 2004 film adaptation of the book.

To add to the excitement of the day, guests are encouraged to wear their pajamas and indulge in a festive hot cocoa bar at the concessions counter. Guests who come dressed in pajamas will be entered into a “Best Pajama” contest for their chance to win a prize package including a copy of “The Polar Express” book signed by Chris Van Allsburg. The storytime, starting at 2:00 pm, Saturday, December 14, will be hosted by Special Guest Storyteller, television’s Jordan Carson – from the local NBC affiliate, WOOD TV8. The movie screening will begin just after storytime, at 3:00 pm.

“For over thirty years UICA has celebrated local artists with our UICA Holiday Artists Market,” said Nicholas Hartman, Film Coordinator at UICA. “This year our theater team decided to follow that trend and select a film that gives a nod to a local artist. An artist recognized for his storytelling through both his words and his images.” Hartman added, “Van Allsburg’s fantastical drawings have won him awards and have been integrated into the Grand Rapids Ballet Company’s annual Nutcracker performances – and although he’s moved away, we’re happy to celebrate his art and his connection to West Michigan.”

The event will kick off at 2 pm on Saturday, Dec 14. Tickets for this storytime and screening are available now, and guests are encouraged to pre-purchase now as the event is expected to sell out. For a full list of what’s playing in The Theater at UICA and showtimes, visit

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