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White House movie theater opens to public

© AFP/File | US First Lady Melania Trump, shown here at an event in April at a Washington hospital, is making the White House movie theater accessible to visitors


Visitors to the White House can now visit the cloakroom-turned-movie theater where Dwight Eisenhower used to sneak off to watch westerns and where Jimmy Carter screened "All The President's Men."

The decision to open up the private presidential theater -- set up in a large cloakroom by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1942 -- was made by Melania Trump, the president's wife.

"The White House belongs to the people of this country," the first lady said.

"I believe everyone who takes the time to visit and tour the White House should have as much access to its rich history and wonderful traditions as possible. It is my hope that our visitors truly enjoy the newest piece of the tour."

Among the biggest movie buffs to have occupied the Oval Office were Eisenhower, a fan of westerns and Gary Cooper flicks in particular and Richard Nixon, who liked black-and-white musicals such as "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

An even bigger cinephile was Carter, who held two or three movie nights a week.

Carter watched 480 movies while in the White House, more than any other president. His first White House movie showing was "All The President's Men," the story of the Watergate scandal that toppled Nixon.

Despite being a former actor, Ronald Reagan was not such a big viewer, although he did like to watch his own movies with his wife Nancy on his birthday, according to the White House Museum website. He did however remodel the screening room to have 51 tiered seats.

George W. Bush's tastes ran more to the Austin Powers spy spoof series, although -- as the wars he launched in Afghanistan and Iraq ground on for years -- he was said to have turned more to gritty combat movies like "Black Hawk Down" and the Vietnam film "We Were Soldiers."

Barack Obama screened "To Kill a Mocking Bird" to mark the 50th anniversary of the film about racial prejudice in the US South.

The first movie put on by Donald Trump when he came to office in January was "Finding Dory," the animated tale of a fish looking for its parents.

It was screened the same weekend that protests broke out across the US over Trump's travel ban on visitors entering the US from seven predominantly Muslim states.

The theater is located in the East Wing of the White House, which also feature Roosevelt's WWII bomb shelter.

The first movie ever screened in the White House was "Birth of a Nation," a 1915 movie about the Civil War that sparked controversy for glorifying the Ku Klux Klan.

© 2017 AFP