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Documentary about 'That Championship Season' impact on Scranton to premiere at the drive-in

The making of a movie that made Scranton its setting is the subject of a documentary that premieres at the Circle Drive-In on Thursday.

SCRANTON, Pa. — Austin Burke spent about 40 years as the head of the Chamber of Commerce in Scranton, but there's one year in particular that will always stand out to him. It was 1982 — the year he regularly shared a dinner table with actors like Martin Sheen and Bruce Dern.

"And to have all of these stars coming into Scranton was really big news."

Big stars meant big money. The filming of the movie "That Championship Season," written by Scranton native Jason Miller, left a major mark on the city's economy.

"They spent money like water," Burke recalled.

But it was about more than just the money. As Mayor Jimmy McNulty put it in a 1982 Newsweek article, the film was a "golden opportunity to put Scranton back on the map."

And now, 40 years later, filmmakers Bob Savakinus and Luz Cabrales are taking a look back in a new documentary called "Scranton's Championship Season."

"It's a great retrospective history of 40 years of making the film and how Scranton has changed and all the great economic development that has happened in Scranton as a result of filmmaking, plus the great stories of the people that were in the movie, going back to see some of the locations that were used in the movie," Bob Savakinus said.

"I always look at 'That Championship Season' as a time capsule because if you sit down now and watch it, and you see Martin Sheen walking down some of the streets in Scranton. You start looking at it, thinking, 'Oh, what building was that? Oh, my God, look how different it is,'" said Mary Ann Savakinus, executive director of the Lackawanna Historical Society.

The doc features people like Austin Burke, and through the stories of those who were involved in the original film, viewers are treated to a trip back in time while also looking toward the future.

Just like in 1982, the filmmakers in 2022 want to put Scranton back on the map in the movie industry.

"We have so much talent around here that we don't need to necessarily go to New York or Atlanta to make things happen. We can make it happen here in Scranton," Luz Cabrales said.

"Hollywood came to Scranton 40 years ago. Hollywood or filmmakers can come back to Scranton and make films here," Bob Savakinus added.

The documentary premieres at the Circle Drive-In in Dickson City on Thursday at 8:30 p.m.

A screening of "That Championship Season" follows right after.

Gates open at 7 p.m., and tickets are $9. Proceeds will benefit the Lackawanna Historical Society.

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