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Silas Lesnick Written by Silas Lesnick
Sep. 3, 2008 | 1:16 PM





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A Visit to Hollywood’s CineCon 44

By Silas Lesnick

This past weekend marked the 44th Annual CineCon Classic Film Festival, stretching five days and spanning decades of cinema.  Held in the center of Hollywood at the Renaissance Hotel, CineCon’s international crowd comes together for a showcase of rare and unusual works, many featuring special guests and audience interaction.

Screenings are held at the historic Grauman’s Egyptian Theater, originally opened in 1922 and fully restored in late 1998. Appropriately for the theater (which hosted the very first Hollywood premiere with Douglas Fairbank’s “Robin Hood”) CineCon 44’s second night featured the King of silent Hollywood himself in 1920’s “The Mollycoddle”.

Though the festival slogan jokes, “Spend five days in the dark this Labor Day weekend,” the event itself is far from a solitary experience. Stretching from the five dealer rooms (which boast a fantastic collection of movie memorabilia; everything from posters and lobby cards to DVDs and rare soundtracks) to the theater, it’s not at all uncommon to pass two old friends, reuniting over the right film or, in some cases, the stars themselves. Elena Verdugo was met with a packed house and thunderous applause as she took the stage for a Q and A following a 35mm print of Universal’s “House of Frankenstein” (1944).

Other celebrity guests included Walter Mirisch (whose career was celebrated in a special showcase opening night), Warren Stevens (following a screening of “The Case Against Brooklyn) and Celeste Holm (After “Champagne for Caesar”).

But the screen itself was host to many other stars; some gone, but clearly not forgotten. Charley Chase was uncommonly vocal in 1937’s sound short “The Awful Goof” and the half-silent/half-talkie “Modern Love” (1929). Harold Lloyd, Bette Davis, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper were among the many faces of old Hollywood to dazzle CineCon goers with their celluloid immortality.

Though CineCon may seem to cater primarily to an older demographic, everyone I talked with seemed delighted at the prospect of getting classic works across to younger audiences. When told it was my first CineCon experience, there was not a single festival goer not eager to tell me about his or her picks for the weekend and recommend some must-see selections. Because the event is held right in the middle of Hollywood, there’s a fine blend of devoted fans and those who have turned their love into industry professions.

One decades-long CineCon goer told me that, even more important than getting to see the films, is seeing the people he only gets to see once a year.

“After you do it for ten years,” he said, “everyone just stops aging. It’s great.”

For more information about CineCon, including how to participate in next year’s event, visit www.cinecon.org.


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