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January 11, 2017

TONIGHT: watch old favorite flicks on 16mm film for a blast to the past

'The Secret Cinema' plays Wednesday night at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute

Local cinema preservationist and film print collector Jay Schwartz, the man behind The Secret Cinema, has been collecting and showing film prints around Philadelphia since the early ‘90s.

More recently, he’s been holding showings of obscure shorts and other rarities at venues around the city, often lugging the projector around himself.

Schwartz believes that in this age in which most multiplexes have switched to digital projection, that it’s important to keep film, itself, alive.

“With Secret Cinema screenings, they will be seeing real film projected, not a digital scan of a film. It's the difference between seeing a painting and a photograph of a painting," Schwartz said. 

Wednesday night, Schwartz will screen a series of six shorts at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. The program features sometimes rare works collected over four decades throughout Philadelphia’s history. Schwartz calls it a “best of” compilation of earlier “From Philadelphia With Love” exhibitions, which date back to 1999.

The program, called “The Secret Cinema Presents: From Philadelphia with Love: Industrial, Educational, and Other Lost Local Films,” will include six short films – all of them projected on 16mm film. Some came from the city archive, while others are from Schwartz’s personal collection.

“I wanted a good sampling of the different kinds of educational and industrial films that have been made in our area, and to show films from different eras,” Schwartz said.

“I also tried to use films that are particularly interesting or entertaining.”

Schwartz said that he is always on the lookout for films made in Philadelphia, no matter how obscure the subject – “and the older, the better.”

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The films on the program include:

•“Brooklyn Goes to Philadelphia” (1954): The Philadelphia chapter in a Universal-produced travelogue series, hosted by Brooklyn native Phil Foster.

•“Our Changing City” (1955): A film made during Joseph Clark’s mayoralty, arguing for urban renewal in Philadelphia.

•“Portrait of a College” (1963): A short documentary about what was then known as the Philadelphia Museum College of Art, now known, in a very different form, as The University of the Arts.

•“Is a Career in Television or Radio For You?” (1970s) An educational film, meant to sell high school students on a career in television news, this was filmed at WPVI and WCAU’s studios on City Line Avenue.

•“Philadelphia With Love” (1972) Four years before the Bicentennial, this tourism video is described in the program as “a colorful, tourism-boosting paean to ‘Philadelphia, a fabulous city that puts it all together!’”

•“The Spirit of Success” (1984): Another tourism video – not for Philadelphia, but rather for Montgomery County. At a time of low ebb for the city, this touts Valley Forge, the King of Prussia and Willow Grove malls.

The Secret Cinema program starts at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday; tickets are $12.50 for adults, $10 for seniors and $6.50 for members. They can be purchased here