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Monday, February 1st, 2010

Keeping silents where they belong—-on the big screen

I just received the below email about the challenges of keeping silents going at the Silent Movie Theatre aka CineFamily.  I am going to put my money where my mouth is and make sure to attend ALL of their upcoming silent screenings.  I hope you can join me in this effort.  They are showing some really rare films, which is exciting to see!


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There’s been a lot of wondering and concern about the state of silent films in the Cinefamily program, so I wanted to send a missive both clarifying our past approach, and informing you about the future—a future that does include the continued tradition of showing silent films here. The Cinefamily is a non-profit whose goals are to explore *every* corner of cinema, and perhaps even a little beyond those corners, seeking to discover and share all kinds of film. We really do like it all, and want our program to be a big “tent” with great films from every genre, every place, and every decade. So it was not a conflict for us to continue the tradition of silent films here, a landscape rich with masterpieces and curios. The fact that we were welcomed into the Silent Movie Theatre, a wonderful home with such a rich history, was exciting—but we also knew might lead to confusion.

Though we do many things here, we are keeping the tradition of showing silents at The Silent Movie Theatre alive with its own special time slot. For the past three years (two years since we opened, and one year previous while we were planning everything), we’ve dedicated one day a week to silents. The theatre had been exisiting for some time previously as a private rental house for weddings, parties, and private screenings, so this was actually an increase in silent screenings. Since last October, we did take some time off to assess the best course of action, but have no fear: the plan was to return stronger than ever.

We now have a guest programmer the first Wednesday of every month—The Silent Treatment—who will be showing rare archival prints, most of which are unavailable on DVD. While we may not show silents each and every Wednesday, we will show at least two or three a month, and we also plan on starting a matinee program in the spring, with more family-friendly classics by the big names in silent comedy—Chaplin, Keaton, etc. Our investment is real—we even bought new 18-frames-per-second motors (instead of the usual 24) for our projectors, so that we could show true 35mm restorations like The Flapper this Wednesday.

Keep in min: we don’t show silent films to make money, and in order to show as many as possible, we do need your support. The shows are more, not less, expensive than regular screenings, because we also have a live musician and a short program each time, both of which are above and beyond normal costs. Unlike previous owners, we inherited virtually no in-house library of films; while previous Silent Movie Theatre programmers could keep silents shows affordable by showing only public domain films they owned in-house prints of over and over again, every short and feature we show now costs us both rental and shipping fees. In addition, showing rare archival prints requires higher separate print loan fees (aside from rights clearances), insurance, and other sundry expenses.

If you want to help, in addition to attending the silents shows, you can also make tax-deductible donations to the Cinefamily—and if you want to leave a little note “earmarking” your support for silent films, that does send a message. You can paypal us at, or mail a donation (with your name and address, so we can get you your receipt) to:

The Cinefamily
611 N. Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA, 90036

Oh, and lest I forget! We’re re-opening our silents program with a film I’ve been dying to show. The Flapper is the best flapper movie this side of It, and undeservedly forgotten actress Olive Thomas was the first Hollywood starlet to earn the appellation. Sexy, fun, and a classic example of the kind of rare screening we hope to show more of (a 35mm print from The Eastman House is a really big deal, guys!), you should all come out to the show. To make it more fun, it’s half-off the ticket price if you come in 1920s period costume, and feel free to join us at our “speakeasy” on the back porch (the password is: “swordfish”). So put on the ritz, rope a dope, bring your sugardaddy and come to the Cinefamily petting pantry to catch the latest flick. They’re the cat’s meow!

Best, and thank you for your time,
Hadrian Belove, Executive Director, The Cinefamily

Written by Karie (site owner) on 02/01 at 09:37 PM