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Thursday, July 22, 2021

Starting Tomorrow: Broncho Billy Festival 2021

This weekend, July 23-25, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum presents an online version of its annual Broncho Billy & Friends Silent Film Festival.

Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog plugs the museum's programs regularly. We're happy to do so again.

The 2021 edition is titled Theatres & Theaters: Nickelodeons to Movie Palaces and begins on July 23 with movies about and Russell Merritt's presentation on nickelodeons. The official press release elaborates:

Tens of thousands of films have been shot in locations all around the planet, thousands of movie stars have been celebrated, careers of many professionals have risen and fallen over the past 130+ years, the equivalence of empire's entire fortunes have been made and lost all in order to tell a story and entertain people and, of course, to make the almighty buck. This weekend we wanted to pay respect to the movie-going experience - from the basic to the fantastic. So sit back in your armchair and enjoy our second Broncho Billy & Friends Silent Film Festival online.

Live Zoom: San Francisco in the Nickelodeon Age.

5:00pm PT / 8:00pm ET - Link will be available July 23rd at 12:01am, while the Zoom will start at time posted.

From the start, San Francisco had its own way of selling movies, finding its audiences, and promoting its live acts. In tonight’s illustrated talk, Russell Merritt shows how the city’s nickelodeon scene arose Phoenix-like from the 1906 earthquake to create its remarkable film scene. Here is a fun presentation by Mr. Merritt earlier this year about the early days of movies

Joining Mr. Merritt in conversation about how the San Francisco nickelodeon morphed and grew into a golden age of movie palaces and classic neighborhood theaters: piano wizard, silent film accompanist, film historian and expert on the works of George & Ira Gershwin and Irving Berlin, Frederick Hodges

Next up: a 1916 Keystone production featuring Mack "Ambrose" Swain, frequent co-star of Charlie Chaplin.

In A Movie Star, the ever-blustery and befuddled Ambrose watches himself on the nickelodeon screen while the audience eagerly watches his every move. 
The piano player, a one-man-band played by Keystone regular Harry McCoy, contributes some nice bits to the proceedings. Thanks to The Blackhawk Collection, this Keystone Comedy will be available until 8/20/2021. The piano player accompanying this and other silent films on the program will be Greg Pane.

Film Presentation: When The Movies Came From Niles
Here's an excellent 1964 KPIX documentary, written and produced by Ray Hubbard and narrated by Don Brice, Gilbert M. Anderson and Bill Cato.

Ray Hubbard's documentary delves into the early film career of Gilbert M. "Broncho Billy" Anderson (b. Max Aronson 1880-1971) and the Essanay Film Company in Niles, a prolific producer of westerns, comedies and other features between 1912-16 - and also features a substantial chunk of Anderson's 1915 melodrama NAKED HANDS.

When The Movies Came From Niles includes extensive scenes of numerous silent films produced by Essanay (including those of Charlie Chaplin), recollections of life on the studio lot in Niles, reflections on Anderson's contribution to the western movie genre and footage of the first movie comedy star accepting an honorary Oscar for his work in 1958.

Post Presentation:
New information has surfaced on Essanay Film Co. history since When The Movies Came From Niles was produced in 1964. NESFM board member Michael Bonham catches you up on the latest developments.

Links will be available on July 24th at 12:01am.

Live Zoom: 10:00am PT / 1:00pm ET
Keeping the Movie-Going Experience Alive

Representatives from cinemas in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond will weigh in with their thoughts about what it took to bring in audiences when it was a new thing and the pivot needed in the aftermath of a pandemic.

Émile Reynaud launched the idea of bringing people together to experience projected images with his Théâtre Optique in 1892. It caught on and cinema has survived challenges from the last world-wide pandemic, radio, television, and numerous forms of home video.We will discuss the kind of passion, creativity, programming, and showmanship that are needed as we embark on the next chapter of the movie going experience.

Panelists: Adam Bergeron (CinemaSF: Balboa and Vogue Theaters, San Francisco), Emelyn Stuart (Stuart Cinema, Brooklyn), Lex Sloan (Roxie, San Francisco), Suki Van Arsdale (San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Elmwood Theatre, Berkeley) and Moderator- Gary Meyer. While the link will be available July 24th at 12:01am, the Zoom will start at time posted.

Film: Broncho Billy's Adventure (1911, Western Division, Essanay Film Company)

Fairfax, California, is the location used for this film, one of the earliest Broncho Billy films starring G. M. Anderson. Anderson includes his usual mix of comedy and drama as his character gets caught in the middle of a family dispute between hotel owner Arthur Mackley and his daughter Edna Fisher when she welcomes her boyfriend Fred Church, a cowboy her father dislikes.

The Temptress (1911, Essanay Film Company, Chicago)
Detective Curtis Cooksey investigates the disappearance of a young man, whisked away by the scheming title character whose ultra-devious designs include poisoning him. Lottie Briscoe stars.

5:00pm PT 8:00pm ET
Live Zoom: join filmmaker April Wright for Q & A on her documentaries, Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the American Drive-in Movie and Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace.

Links will be available July 25 at 12:01am

Billy McGrath on Broadway (1913, Essanay Film Company, Chicago) Music by Frederick Hodges. The museum found a gorgeous print of this super-rare 1913 Essanay film, which sat (thankfully, in the dark) for over a century.

Alkali Ike Bests Broncho Billy (1912, Western Division, Essanay Film Company)

Special Film Presentation: Alhambra: Sacramento's Palace of Fantasy

It's true. There was a major movie palace in Sacramento, CA. Remember the Alhambra? The legendary Sacramento movie theater was the focus of a major battle in the city of Sacramento and the preservationists lost. Opened in 1927, the Alhambra Theatre was the preeminent movie house in town for years. It was demolished in 1973 to make way for a Safeway, but its memory lives on in a documentary screening this weekend. Directed and researched by Matías Bombal and co-produced and edited by Chad E. Williams, “Alhambra: Sacramento’s Palace of Fantasy” pieces together the historical puzzle of Sacramento's pride and later, shame. Link will be available July 25 at 12:01am.

The American Movie Palace: A look at its decorative evolution - Gary Parks

Gary Parks, with Jack Tillmany, is the preminent expert on movie palaces of California and beyond. The press release adds: "In this presentation, we will be looking at the aesthetic evolution of the facades and public spaces in movie theatres, showing their decorative evolution out of the nickelodeon era, into the movie palaces of large and mid-sized cities. We will focus on several key theatres across the United States which figure prominently in this evolution, and then—when spotlighting theatres of the movie palace era’s later years—we will include several in, or close to, the Bay Area."

Live Zoom: 5:00pm PT 8:00pm ET

Follow-up Q & A with Gary Parks
Gary will be available to answer any questions you may have. He may be able to tell you all about that long-gone movie palace which was a cornerstone of your neighborhood msny moons ago.

6:30pm PT 9:30pm ET

Live Zoom: Follow-Up Q & A with Matias Bombal

The man who knows all about pageantry and showmanship will share insights and be available for questions on “Alhambra: Sacramento’s Palace of Fantasy.”

In addition to the program for the 2021 Broncho Billy & Friends Silent Film Festival, there are excellent supplementary videos regarding film history and the story of filmmaking on the museum's You Tube channel.

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