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Where are the silent screenings in Hollywood?


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I was a regular at the The Silent Movie Theater in Hollywood for about a decade. During a stretch of several years it showcased the musical talent of the one and only Bob Mitchell. He got started playing when silents were new releases. A rare treat to hear him imitate the sounds of locomotives on his tiny keyboard. Bob played 5 shows a week at SMT until he passed several years ago, and the movies stopped when the theater closed due to a me-too scandal. Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo is keeping alive the gift of old time movies, with a Wurlitzer organ, but is a long haul, even for me.

I really miss the theater and its packed house for the great silent classics. Of all the places in the world, the home of moviemaking needs to nurture the art of silent cinema. Get with it TCM! What can you do with your library of silents?

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On 8/4/2021 at 7:40 PM, Biffeliott said:

I was a regular at the The Silent Movie Theater in Hollywood for about a decade. During a stretch of several years it showcased the musical talent of the one and only Bob Mitchell. He got started playing when silents were new releases. A rare treat to hear him imitate the sounds of locomotives on his tiny keyboard. Bob played 5 shows a week at SMT until he passed several years ago, and the movies stopped when the theater closed due to a me-too scandal. Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo is keeping alive the gift of old time movies, with a Wurlitzer organ, but is a long haul, even for me.

I really miss the theater and its packed house for the great silent classics. Of all the places in the world, the home of moviemaking needs to nurture the art of silent cinema. Get with it TCM! What can you do with your library of silents?

TCM has to lease films,  even from their parent company Time Warner.   That original Ted Turner library of films no longer exist.  

Also,  my understanding is that library didn't have a lot of silent films.       

It is much more likely U.C.L.A.  will be able to preserve (restore\maintain),  more silent films than anyone else.      But even if that was the case who would present them?

Sadly there just isn't much of an audience and networks like TCM do have to maintain a certain customer base.     Public broadcasting is likely the only option (where films are donated so there is no up front leasing cost).

       

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6 hours ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

TCM has to lease films,  even from their parent company Time Warner.   That original Ted Turner library of films no longer exist.  

Also,  my understanding is that library didn't have a lot of silent films.       

It is much more likely U.C.L.A.  will be able to preserve (restore\maintain),  more silent films than anyone else.      But even if that was the case who would present them?

Sadly there just isn't much of an audience and networks like TCM do have to maintain a certain customer base.     Public broadcasting is likely the only option (where films are donated so there is no up front leasing cost).

Isn't everything up to 1925 now in the public domain?

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17 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Isn't everything up to 1925 now in the public domain?

I'm not sure,  but my understanding  is  a lot of silent films are now lost;  i.e.  they were never converted to a digital format.

But if there is a public domain digital format of a film in the public domain then anyone can show that film,  and that supports my point that PBS or other type of public broadcasting is the best place for such films.     I don't think a network that need to break-even (if not show a profit),  can afford to show silent films since there isn't enough of a market willing to pay for them.

 

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56 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

I'm not sure,  but my understanding  is  a lot of silent films are now lost;  i.e.  they were never converted to a digital format.

But if there is a public domain digital format of a film in the public domain then anyone can show that film,  and that supports my point that PBS or other type of public broadcasting is the best place for such films.     I don't think a network that need to break-even (if not show a profit),  can afford to show silent films since there isn't enough of a market willing to pay for them.

Well TCM does show its share of films in the public domain. I think that is because the films fit a certain theme, and also because they don't cost a single penny to put into the schedule so that helps offset some programming costs.

Since TCM has a time during the week set aside to showing some silent films, they could easily add in a few extra freebies for viewers. Even if these can easily be found on YouTube. 

I think to some extent the channel has to accommodate silent film otherwise it would be accused of ignoring a big chunk of Hollywood history which would be bad P.R.

As for what is not digitalized at this point, I can't comment on that since I don't know. A lot of silent films are still in existence. Including foreign silent films.

Furthermore I would say any sound film that is not marked for preservation by the Library of Congress is in danger of becoming lost in time.

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16 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Well TCM does show its share of films in the public domain. I think that is because the films fit a certain theme, and also because they don't cost a single penny to put into the schedule so that helps offset some programming costs.

Since TCM has a time during the week set aside to showing some silent films, they could easily add in a few extra freebies for viewers. Even if these can easily be found on YouTube. 

I think to some extent the channel has to accommodate silent film otherwise it would be accused of ignoring a big chunk of Hollywood history which would be bad P.R.

As for what is not digitalized at this point, I can't comment on that since I don't know. A lot of silent films are still in existence. Including foreign silent films.

Furthermore I would say any sound film that is not marked for preservation by the Library of Congress is in danger of becoming lost in time.

 Are you saying TCM should show more silent films than what they already show?    E.g.  increase the number of silent films shown on Sunday evening,   or add another time day \ time slot for silent films?    

I do wonder if TCM has conducted any surveys on this;   again,  my gut tells me the vast majority of TCM regular viewers do not wish for more silent films,   and this is even more the case with the occasional TCM viewer.   But hey, maybe I'm wrong here.     I just know I don't wish for TCM to increase the number of silent films they show, from what they already show.

 

 

 

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42 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

 Are you saying TCM should show more silent films than what they already show?    E.g.  increase the number of silent films shown on Sunday evening,   or add another time day \ time slot for silent films?    

I do wonder if TCM has conducted any surveys on this;   again,  my gut tells me the vast majority of TCM regular viewers do not wish for more silent films,   and this is even more the case with the occasional TCM viewer.   But hey, maybe I'm wrong here.     I just know I don't wish for TCM to increase the number of silent films they show, from what they already show.

I am not saying they should increase the number of silent films but they could. And I wouldn't be averse to it.

In a way it's foolish to ignore the history of silent films. Most of the big name directors in the 1930s and 1940s  learned the craft of filmmaking in the silent film days (King Vidor, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Cecil B. DeMille, etc.). They brought with them a strong understanding of the power of images, since silent films depended so much on images. And film has always been primarily a visual medium. 

Directors who began in the sound era often lack this fundamental understanding. 

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Just now, TopBilled said:

I am not saying they should increase the number of silent films but they could. And I wouldn't be averse to it.

In a way it's foolish to ignore the history of silent films. Most of the big name directors in the 1930s and 1940s  learned the craft of filmmaking in the silent film days (King Vidor, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Cecil B. DeMille, etc.). They brought with them a strong understanding of the power of images, since silent films depended so much on images. And film has always been primarily a visual medium. 

Directors who began in the sound era often lack this fundamental understanding. 

From an educational POV I can see showing a silent films from one of those directors you mention and then a talking picture,  as well as showing a silent film and then the talking picture "remake".          

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For more than a decade, silent movie fans packed the house at the Silent Movie Theater on Fairfax Ave in Hollywood. It was a small auditorium, maybe 250 seats, very intimate,  but often nearly sold out. The walls of the theater were covered with poster sized still photos of the movie stars of the era. It was like stepping through a door to the past. They screened movies on  35mm, and later digital, on loan from various collections, including the library of congress, UCLA Archives and all that. There was a young couple who partnered with the owners to curate the screenings, and they gave a brief talk to introduce the show and inform the audience about the actors, directors and studios involved in making the film. There was usually some juicy Hollywood gossip in the history, to stimulate the imagination. I must admit, not having any background in film, that it took me some time to get used to watching silents. But I got so good at reading the faces of the actors, I could even read lips as they spoke their dialogue. Watching film where the only sound effects are created by the talent of the organ player is an acquired taste, but oh, so worth it!

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