Fresh Young Audience Loves Funny Old Films

The Dancing PigOur event was something like this (with Dean Mora, not Mildred Smith, at the piano).

“It was just amazing!
We had never had an audience like that before.”

On a recent Saturday evening, Scott Lasky, founder of Famous Players Orchestra, hosted an itinerant show billed as

CLASSIC SILENT COMEDIES
Hand-Cranked 35mm Film on

Original Power’s 1909 Cameragraph Model 6
Motion Picture Machine
with Live Musical Accompaniment

The March 5, 2016 event was held at the Christ Lutheran Church in Burbank, California. Admission was $10 for a 2-hour show with intermission (program listed below).

I, Joe Rinaudo, cranked the projector and Dean Mora played the piano. Gary Gibson changed the glass slides during intermission. And the audience blew us all away!

Same old show, brand new audience

I’ve done over some 200 shows and, for the first time, having advertised on Facebook thanks to Scott Lasky, we got a young, effervescent, 30-something crowd in there. From the very beginning there was an electricity in the air. They were laughing and talking and buying hot dogs and popcorn and looking around and talking to everybody and inspecting the projector. It wasn’t the same audience that we usually get, which is mostly elderly and rather quiet. (They don’t laugh or talk very much, as they are familiar with this format as well as the films.) This was a young, new crowd and a new experience for them—and they even induced the “regulars” to laugh and enjoy the show even more.

dancingpig

When we started the first film, The Dancing Pig (featuring the ever-popular but always slightly disturbing dancing pig), brought forth gales of laughter and howling and cheering—and shock—from the audience. The response just kept growing and growing, and by the time we got to The Grocery Clerk, which is one of Larry Semon’s masterpieces, it brought the house down. We had people laughing hysterically. They were booing the villain, cheering the heroine, and shouting and laughing.

The audience saw a “moving picture” for the first time

It struck me that this is what the reaction would have been like for a 1920 audience seeing this film for the first time. Many of these people not only had never seen a silent film before, but they have never seen a show like this with live musical accompaniment and a hand-cranked projector doing the whole show for them. So it was a total overload, I think, of their senses. It absolutely floored me because their reaction was so positive and so upbeat. They were catching every little nuance in the film and every little gag was getting laughed at. It was just amazing. We had never had an audience like that before.

Not only was the film entertaining, many people wanted pictures of the projector and with me and with Dean and Gary. We were posing in period costume with the projector and they were filming it with their camera phones and such.


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It was a very interesting evening and everything went all very well. It ended on a big bang with Buster Keaton in Cops and we got a huge cheer and an ovation at the end. It was just a wonderful time.

Epiphany

I had a moment of clarity at that show, a life-changing moment, where suddenly I saw the reason for doing what I’m doing:

I’m bringing something to these people that they had never seen before and that truly entertained them—as if it was an audience that was seeing “moving pictures” for the first time. Because it actually was! It wasn’t a modern film in color and in digital technology in 3D; it was a flat screen black and white image from a hundred years ago.

The audience was also amazed that we were doing all the work by hand—I’m cranking the projector, Gary’s changing the slides and Dean is playing the piano. They listened attentively as I explained the role of the itinerant projectionist traveling from town to town, setting up a show in a hall or church basement, and drawing audiences through advance telegraphed announcements.

This show renewed my faith in humanity. The wonderful young audience is hungry for this type of entertainment.

I realized in this one show that what I’m doing is right, that it does make a difference.

Facebook: the new telegraph

Advertising on Facebook was a whole new dynamic for us. It spread the word and drew the audience, a fresh and curious audience who really didn’t know what to expect, much the same as the telegraph and handbills would have spread the word 100 years ago.

Through our new “telegraph” called social media, and your help in spreading the word, we’ll introduce this 100-year-old form of entertainment to a young, new generation of audiences who are attentive, curious and amazed. After all, you can’t hand-crank an iPhone.

PROGRAM
“The Dancing Pig” (1907) Pathe
“The Acrobatic Fly” (1910) Comet Films
“It’s a Gift” (1923) Starring Snub Pollard
“The Rink” (1916) Starring Charlie Chaplin
“The Grocery Clerk” (1920) Starring Larry Semon
“Cops” (1922) Starring Buster Keaton


Don’t miss the next show!
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The End

 

Original Power’s Cameragraph Catalog

This original Power’s Cameragraph catalog, published in 1916, is in the collection at the Hoboken Historical Museum.

According to the website’s “Scope and Content” description—as quoted:

“Power’s Cameragraph. Nicholas Power Company, 50 Gold Street, New York. Copyright 1916. Priced catalog of 35mm projectors and stereopticons [lantern slides] with tipped-in revised price list dated February 15, 1918. Booklet, 6-3/4″ x 8-3/4″ high, 52 pp, photo illustrated.”


Click to view full catalog.View the entire Power’s Cameragraph Catalog here.
Click on “MULTIMEDIA LINKS: CLICK HERE to view the PDF” and you’ll see the pages in high resolution. You can also order any page for reference or framing.


The Hoboken Historical Museum further explains:

“This copy belonged to Julius Durstewitz, Director of Hoboken Playgrounds (under the Parks department) for the City of Hoboken in this era. It was apparently used for the purchase of a “Cameragraph No. 6A, Complete Equipment” as shown and described on pages 10-11 where this outfit is marked with pencil (along with the 1918 revised price list is tipped-in.) The original equipment plus elements of its later modification are in the Museum collections as objects catalog 2005.078.1200.

“Apparently kept by Durstewitz with the set which included a lamp with an integral stereopticon (lantern slide projector) and the cameragraph, a 35mm film silent film projector. Stand and accessories are part of this portable outfit. It was used used for many years in Playground Department activities for children including, but not stated, at 109 Jefferson St. Probable date of purchase 1918 and end date probably in the late 1930s and certainly by the mid 1940s when Durstewitz retired.”


attachment pg 10 rotated revised price list Feb. 15 1918

Parts list with prices. View entire catalog here.
Click on “MULTIMEDIA LINKS: CLICK HERE to view the PDF” and you’ll see the pages in high resolution. You can also order any page for reference or framing.


My projector is the Power’s Cameragraph Model 6, produced in 1909, with the portable table as shown on Page 22 of the catalog. This was called a “breadboard” because the walnut slab of wood upon which the project and lamp housing are mounted resembles a kitchen cutting board.

This 1909 Power’s Model 6  was discovered in a chicken coup on a farm by the projectionist’s grandchildren, who told me it was used between 1909 and 1916 as an original itinerant projector. I fully restored the projector and updated it with a high-intensity halogen lamp. It is now reprising its original role as a “portable moving picture machine” which travels with me from venue to venue, entertaining audiences with hand-cranked silent cinema entertainment.

The End

 

Evening of Classic Silent Comedies
Mar. 5, 2016

This show was a tremendous success…

proving our passion and efforts to preserve Silent Cinema are fully worthwhile. The audience of no less than 100 were primarily 30- and 40-year-old “kids” who laughed and applauded as if seeing a moving picture for the first time. Many of them were, in fact…as black-and-white and silent, except for Dean Mora’s live piano score.


It's A Gift Main Title

FAMOUS PLAYERS ORCHESTRA

Presents an Evening of

Classic Comedies

Hand-Cranked Classic Silent Film Comedies
With Live Musical Accompaniment

Saturday March 5th, 2016
7:00 pm

DOWNLOAD PRINT-FRIENDLY FLYER


35 millimeter film projected by Joe Rinaudo on an original hand-cranked Power’s 1909 Cameragraph Model 6 Motion Picture Machine.
Live musical accompaniment featuring Dean Mora on piano.

Program Includes:
“The Dancing Pig” (1907) Pathe
“The Acrobatic Fly” (1910) Comet Films
“It’s a Gift” (1923) Starring Snub Pollard
“The Rink” (1916) Starring Charlie Chaplin
“The Grocery Clerk” (1920) Starring Larry Semon
“Cops” (1922) Starring Buster Keaton

Date:
Saturday, March 5th, 2016
Doors open at 6:15 pm
Show starts at 7:00 pm

Location: 
Christ Lutheran Church
2400 W. Burbank Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91506
(Southeast corner of Burbank Bl. & Buena Vista St.)

Admission is $10.00 (suggested donation)

Show will run approx. 125 minutes with a short intermission. Concessions for sale.

Intermission--33--500x100

All proceeds to benefit Famous Players Orchestra, a 501(c)3 non profit organization, whose mission is dedicated to performing and recording the historic film music used by movie theater orchestras during the silent era.  Please visit our website at:

www.fporchestra.org.

Thank you for your support. Enjoy the show!

Holiday Fun at Annual Crescenta Valley Party

Crescenta-Valley-Weekly-12-17-2015-3

See full-size newpaper article here.

We had a great show at the C.V. Historical Society’s Christmas party. Standing room only. There were young kids there watching the silent films. One little girl laughed hysterically throughout most of the films. That made the show more worthwhile for me because she probably had never been to a silent film show and that’s what it’s all about! Dean Mora did a tremendous job on the piano, as usual, and Gary Gibson had fun with the glass lantern slide shows in between each film. All in all it’s always a great show when young people (teenagers and grade school kids alike) can come, experience and really enjoy such a show.

Read comments about the show on Facebook.

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