- The Washington Times - Friday, February 21, 2003

Murray Horwitz finds excitement in many things other people might overlook. The arrival of poster display boxes to announce coming attractions at the American Film Institute theater in Silver Spring, where Mr. Horwitz is the director, is one of them.
"It may seem like a little thing but it's great," Mr. Horwitz says. "It means we're a theater again."
Despite the fact his office at 8633 Colesville Road has taken on the atmosphere of "a political campaign office with an election seven weeks away," Mr. Horwitz says he is looking forward to the April 12 reopening. It means the preparations are ending and the show is about to begin.
The same energy carries through much of Mr. Horwitz's work at the theater, which was a local landmark for nearly 50 years before being boarded up in 1985.
Since last July, Mr. Horwitz has overseen a restoration of the theater that will make it look much as it did in 1938, when it opened with a cutting-edge Art Moderne style of architecture.
"It's going to be, as my kids would say, 'way cool,'" Mr. Horwitz says.
On a typical day, Mr. Horwitz starts in the morning by troubleshooting any issues that have arisen since the previous day. They could include returning a phone call or making a decision about reconstruction of the theater.
Afterward, he prepares his "midmorning cappuccino" in the cappuccino machine outside his office.
From the two floors beneath him, the thuds and whines of hammers and saws can be heard as construction work continues. Visitors must put on hard hats laid out in the reception area before touring the theater.
At his desk, surrounded by posters and other souvenirs of a career in theater arts, Mr. Horwitz returns e-mail from the AFI management on the West Coast. The e-mail frequently arrives after he leaves for the day, while the West Coast is still in midafternoon.
Appointments and meetings take up much of the rest of Mr. Horwitz's days. Fund raising from corporations and nonprofit arts organizations is the primary reason for the meetings.
AFI also drew nearly $20 million of support from Montgomery County, which is using the theater to lure redevelopment to downtown.
Mr. Horwitz says the Discovery Channel's decision to erect a new headquarters across the street was influenced partly by the presence of the AFI theater.
His workdays often end with Mr. Horwitz making decisions on programming for the theater. The programs will include documentaries, foreign films, television videos and classic films. A gospel festival of films, music and speakers is scheduled for next fall.
However, a routine characteristic of his workdays is the lack of routine as unforeseen events call for quick changes of schedule.
"I like the hurly-burly of that," he says. "I think I would be bored if it was just one thing."
Experience and appreciation for the artistry of theater are what led the management of AFI, which is based in Los Angeles, to choose Mr. Horwitz to oversee the restoration and launch of the AFI theater in Silver Spring. Another AFI theater is based at the Kennedy Center in downtown Washington.
Mr. Horwitz comes to AFI from National Public Radio, where he was vice president of cultural programming.
His other jobs have included lyricist, playwright, New York State Assembly public relations worker and circus clown. In his spare time at home in Chevy Chase, Mr. Horwitz, 53, likes crossword puzzles and listening to jazz.
He has won three Peabody Awards for shows he produced at National Public Radio. He also shared a Tony Award for co-writing the Broadway show "Ain't Misbehavin'."


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