No one knows more about the history of exhibition, particularly in the South, than John McElwee, who has a loyal readership at his website, Greenbrier Picture Shows If you haven’t latched onto this entertaining and informative site, or even if you’ve enjoyed John’s colorful posts over the years, you’ll want to own a copy of the handsome new hardcover collection of his columns, Showmen, Sell It Hot! (GoodKnight Books). His chapters on the distribution history of such classic films as The Wizard of Oz, Frankenstein, Dracula, and A Night at the Opera illuminate a facet of their history that many others ignore: their long theatrical life through repeated reissues. McElwee doesn’t rely on his memory or anecdotal evidence: he cites trade journals and box-office figures to show that many of these movies found their true audience the second or third time around. Every chapter of this lavishly illustrated volume is packed with information that was new to me and fascinating to learn. (Did you know that in the wake of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 20th Century Fox made up new 35mm Technicolor prints of 1939’s Jesse James with Tyrone Power and circulated them for years, especially in the South?) I can’t say enough about this entertaining book or the ongoing research John McElwee offers at his site.
Finally, if you’re visiting New York City over the winter, you might want to check out a photography exhibit by Joseph O. Holmes at the Museum of the Moving Image. It’s called The Booth: The Last Days of Film Projection, and it chronicles some of the surviving projection booths (and projectionists) in the New York metropolitan area. It may be difficult to grasp but, in modern theaters, booths—a fixture of exhibition for more than a century—are now essentially obsolete. Without bulky prints to store and prepare for showing, or trained operators to splice and rewind reels of film, all a multiplex needs is a shelf to hold a digital projector—which in some cases is operated by remote control from an iPad!
Purists and nostalgists will certainly relate to the environment and equipment so beautifully captured by Holmes in his photo essay, which you can also purchase in book form HERE.
And if you haven’t heard me spout off about a recent encounter I had with non-showmanship, please click HERE.