For some movie buffs, showing Orson Welles' acclaimed film "Citizen Kane" at Hearst Castle is like having a screening of "Star Wars" on the Death Star.
Fifty film fans had the opportunity to watch Welles' 1941 groundbreaking film partly based on the late William Randolph Hearst at the media tycoon's own private theater at Hearst Castle, a concession the magnate would probably not have made.
The screening Friday with a price tag of $1,000 was part of the San Luis Obispo Film Festival. It included an exclusive tour of the estate, which is now a state park, and a reception on the mansion's patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It will benefit the nonprofit Friends of Hearst Castle, a preservation group.
Welles' cinema classic was shown before in the Hearst Castle's visitor center in 2010, but this was the first time the film was screened in the opulent, 50-seat theater at the hilltop estate.
Great-grandson Stephen Hearst, the vice president and general manager of Hearst Corp.'s Western Properties, gave his blessing to the festival to screen the film both times. He didn't attend, but said he saw it as an opportunity to show the differences between his great-grandfather and Charles Foster Kane, the character played by Welles.
"My logic back then was very simple, this was an opportunity to clarify the record, to draw the distinction between the fictional character of Charlie Kane and his gloomy Xanadu and WR Hearst and his beautiful architectural masterpiece at the top of the hill at San Simeon," Stephen Hearst said.
William Randolph Hearst sought to derail the movie, which portrayed the rise and fall of an obsessively controlling media mogul, but the film went on to win an Academy Award in 1942 for best original screenplay and is now considered one of the greatest American films. The film, a searing critique of a newspaper magnate, has many similarities to Hearst's life.
But Stephen Hearst said the screening, which was hosted by Ben Mankiewicz, the grandson of Herman Mankiewicz, who co-wrote the "Citizen Kane" screenplay, was an opportunity to draw the distinctions between William Randolph Hearst's life and Welles' fiction.
"I view it as clarifying the record, and showing what an extraordinary human being WR was and what he accomplished in his life," Stephen Hearst said.