Abilenes Paramount Theatre Has Pie Hopes For The Help

Minny (Octavia Spencer) exits the bus to deliver a special pie to her former employer in "The Help," which is showing Friday-Saturday at the Paramount Theatre. (Photo: DreamWorks Pictures)

Chocolate pie took a hit, or a spike, in popularity eight years ago thanks to the movie "The Help."

If you remember — and if you don't, the movie is showing Friday and Saturday at the Paramount Theatre — a Southern maid named Minny delivers her famous chocolate pie to her former boss.

Except that it's not a chocolate filling that Hilly Walters Holbrook eventually licks from her fingers.

Get that pie-eating grin (grimace) off your face.

Why not pie?

For fun, or maybe just to see moviegoers hesitate a bit, the Paramount staff chose to serve pie for the showing of the 2011 movie that vaulted Octavio Spencer, as maid Minny, to stardom. Spencer won a best supporting actress award for her role.

Life of Pie, a local shop, will be selling, they hope, 1,800 3-inch chocolate pies for $3. A portion of the sales goes to the theater.

"No secret ingredient," promised George Levesque, now in his 10th month as executive director of the downtown Abilene, which will celebrate its 90th birthday in May 2020.

The delivery and, yack!, consumption of Minnie's pie after her firing for using her white employer's toilet has "become part of pop culture," Levesque said.

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Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) enjoys Minny's pie while berating her in this scene from "The Help." (Photo: DreamWorks Pictures)

Call it taking down the upper crust.

It may have gotten apple pie off the hook for its starring role in the first "American Pie" flick.

"George reached out to us to see about the idea and it blossomed into the fun idea it has become," said Leslie Bivens, Life of Pie owner.

Expanding audiences

The Paramount for years has shown classic movies, most often going decades back in time for the likes of "Casablanca" or "Raiders of the Lost Ark." But the new thinking of classic has been redefined to include more current classics, such "Black Panther" and "The Greatest Showman."

The goal is widen the audience that will go to the historic theater, Levesque said.

It was his idea to show "The Help," a movie he believes resonates with female audiences. Still, it is not the usual popcorn fare.

Thus, he sought public input via social media and received "hundreds" of likes to show the film.

"The challenge became how to make something of an event," he said.

Hmmm ... how about serving pie?

Make it memorable

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Cory Bivens, who operates Life of Pie with his wife, Leslie, took a break from making pies Wednesday afternoon to sample coconut cream. Baking was to start Thursday evening for the first batch of chocolate pies for the Friday showing of "The Help." (Photo: Greg Jaklewicz/Reporter-News)

Levesque explored companies that made small pies, then remembered the new pie shop in Abilene. Life of Pie opened in 2018.

They were game, he said. Even to the point of dressing up in costumes.

More: Abilene pie shop spices up the sweet with new bistro-style eatery

"They thought it was hilarious," he said. 

He brought the plan back to his board and after the chuckles stopped, the members unanimously approved the idea.

Samples were even distributed and, Levesque said, a challenge was overcome. By nature, chocolate pie doesn't have a thick consistency, and it was feared customers would get pie on themselves and make a mess of the theater.

The recipe was tweaked so the chocolate is more the texture of a brownie.

Again, if you are familiar with the scene, that perhaps adds more realism.

"I think most people will laugh," Levesque said of the treat. "They'll see it and remember the scene."

In a 2016 interview with People magazine's Jess Cagle — who, by the way, is a 1983 Abilene Cooper graduate — Spencer recalled the scene.

More: People editor-in-chief Jess Cagle to be latest Cooper Hall of Fame inductee

"I’ve got to tell you, I don’t look at chocolate pie the same way. I do still send them out as gifts, (though). But I don't make them. It’s a little variety — it’s buttermilk, sweet potato, and chocolate pie.”

Everyone loves ... chocolate

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A pie on display at Life of Pie looks to have chocolate as an ingredient. The southwest Abilene business will be making 1,800 3-inch chocolate pies to sell at three showings of "The Help" this weekend at the Paramount Theatre. (Photo: Greg Jaklewicz/Reporter-News)

Chocolate pie it will be this weekend.

Mini sized but, fortunately, not Minny made.

"Everyone we mention about the movie and pies gets the biggest grin when the light bulb comes on of chocolate pie and 'The Help,'" Bivens said.

If you can't bring yourself to eat a bite of pie, there's always the concession stand.

And a box of Milk Duds. Or Baby Ruth candy bar.

Four more slices of pie

"Shane." In the 1953 western, Marian (Jean Arthur) serves what is regarded as the most delicious looking pie in movie history.

 "American Pie." It has been 20 years since the Jason Biggs character had his way with pie.

"Twin Peaks." Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) enjoys pie so much, he announces that the cherry pie at the Double R Diner is so tasty "it could kill ya.”

"The Waitress." A counter girl (Kerri Russell) starts her day by pouring her hopes, dreams and frustrations into making delicious pies.

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Pie trivia: Jan. 23 each year is National Pie Day. According to a Harris survey, apple remains No. 1 in the mouths of Americans, though the nation is generally split when it comes to pie vs. cake. The 2012 movie "Life of Pi" had nothing to do with pie.

If You Go

What: "The Help"

Where: Paramount Theatre, 352 Cypress St.

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Admission: $7 for adults; $6 for students, seniors, military and children

Information: Go to paramount-abilene.org

 

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