In 1928, the buzz about Rome was tangible with news of the imminent opening of the newly constructed Capitol Theatre. The denizens of Rome had seen for months the construction of the new theatre, but the interior appearance remained a mystery. Word of the erection of a new theatre was officially released two years previous to its opening, and chatter about the prospect gradually escalated from that time.
Having finally seen The Artist last week at the Manlius Art Cinema, I’m inspired to jot down some of my impressions of it. I don’t claim that my feelings about the movie are of any more interest than anyone else’s, they’re simply the impressions of someone who is an enthusiast of actual silent movies of the 1920s and who, in fact, sees a lot more silent movies than current-run productions.
There is an unfortunate feature of my character that causes me to go into new movie set in an earlier time period with the intention of “exposing” the inaccuracies. And I have to say that I was thoroughly prepared to dislike The Artist, despite the critical praise it has been getting. I wasn’t disappointed about the number of things I had to complain about, as they certainly were there, but I have to admit that, overall, there was a convincing period atmosphere, right down to bit actors that fit the type of the ‘20s.
The biggest complaint about the movie that I’ve heard from fans of the silent era is that the lead character (played by Jean Dujardin), who is clearly modeled on Douglas Fairbanks, is simply “out” of pictures as soon as talkies come in. He’s a big star in silent pictures, but as soon as they talk he is given no chance to appear in sound films—he’s just unceremoniously dropped by the studio and becomes a member of the unemployed. (After a brief and unsuccessful attempt to make a silent movie independently.) In reality NO big star of silents wasn’t at least given a chance to star in talkies—even those who flopped as talkie stars made a few of them, and generally their first talkies were financial successes, regardless of the aesthetic values.
But if we ignore that and accept the movie for what it is—a 21st Century attempt to revive an outmoded style of moviemaking, The Artist is a success, albeit a qualified one. I got the impression that the moviemakers had decided to make a silent film first, then went out and studied a group of very well known silent movies. Many of the bits in the film can be directly attributed to similar scenes from specific silent films. Of course, that isn’t going to be picked up on by the average moviegoer today, and perhaps that was the intention.
Incidentally, The Artist isn’t really a silent picture, as it has a soundtrack of music and effects and even one brief dialogue exchange. (In the early talkie era it would have been marketed as a “sound” film with “thrilling music and sound effects,” or something like that.)
The crowd of about 65 who saw this in 35mm at the Manlius Art Cinema (a 1918 “shooting gallery” theater, by the way) were clearly enthralled. And, while I also enjoyed the picture, I couldn’t help wonder how these people would have taken to one of the great films actually made during the period depicted in The Artist. Maybe it’s time for official re-releases of The Crowd, Lonesome, or Sunrise…
My name is Martine Angell. Some of you may know me, some may not. I was the intern at the Rome Capitol Theatre from Dec. 15-Jan.10. My job consisted of me helping out wherever I was needed.
Overall, I had a wonderful time. I had a general idea of what to expect in the beginning of my internship, but happily it become more than that. The staff I worked with is very friendly and very willing to make me feel apart of the team. Also, the opportunity to work in the theatre I grew up with was very exciting to me.
During my time as the intern, at the Rome Capitol Theatre, there was highs & lows or a quote from Kylie Pierce “feast or famine” when it came to work I had to do.
In the beginning of my internship, I had shows I had to work on. This was very thrilling. The process for setting up for a show was very fun. Getting the popcorn ready, making sure everything was stocked, and working with the other volunteers for the theatre was fun. Now I get what you’re thinking, “how the heck can all that work be fun?” To be honest, I am a bit weird, but by helping out with the shows I felt a part of the show or at least a part of the overall experience of coming to the Capitol. I hope that I made a good contribution to the experience of those who came in.
I didn’t only work on shows. I also designed a few poster ideas for the 1912 Revue (hope that one of them will be used, but who knows!!). I liked doing this project because it gave me the chance to expand on my limited knowledge of Photoshop (thanks to Jack Theakston). Moreover, I was given the artistic freedom to design the poster as I pleased. This poster took me awhile to finish but I am very happy with the results.
Another poster design project was for the Looney Toons program the theatre will be hosting in February. For this project Art Pierce gave me a list of Looney Toon episodes that the theatre will be playing. My job was to find pictures from each of the episodes, print them, and then place them on a poster that was appealing to the eye. One part of the poster I was most proud of is the lettering that I created. I found a basic “Looney Toons” font and then I used Photoshop to put in the same coloring that is used in other advertisements for Looney Toons.
The biggest hurdle that I had with this project was finding the pictures and printing them out. Some of the episodes I had to look for were not as popular as others so I had to search for a while to find a picture. Then the printer was on the fritz, so I had to wait in line for others to print. But HUZZAH it was fixed (again thanks to Jack) and I was able to complete and put together the poster. So if you see any of my posters, please take a moment to stare in awe at my awesomeness!!!
In the end, I had an amazing time and I’ll really miss coming in and seeing every one. The experience I had at the theatre is one that I would not trade for most anything (Hmmm…Maybe a hedgehog. Those things are just too cute. Or buckets of money.) Moreover, I am glad about the relationships and friends I have made at the Capitol and I can’t wait to come back!!
As much as we all love our jobs here at the Capitol (and I’m not being sarcastic!) we, the staff of the Capitol, tend to look forward to having the Christmas holiday off. But when the theater was new, holidays typically were a guarantee that business would be brisk, with pretty much all the people with “normal” jobs having the day off and families often looking for something to do after the festivities were over. Movie theaters were open everyday (then as now), so they were an obvious choice when one was looking for something to do—particularly on holidays when practically everything else was closed.
Among those things that were closed—though not because of the holiday–was the Strand Theater, which had been Rome’s first run movie house until the Capitol opened. It had been announced that the Strand would re-open in January with a “new policy.” (At that time it would become Rome’s second run theater.) In its waning days was the much smaller Star Theater on N. James St., which would continue to show silent films with piano accompaniment until the end of the month, when it would close for good. (The Christmas day attraction at the Star was F.B.O.’s version of Freckles with Johnny Fox.) The apparent careful coordination and cooperation of these other theaters with the operation of Rome’s newest movie house should come as no surprise when one considers that they were all owned and operated by Michael and Joseph Kallet.
The Capitol had opened to just 15 days before Christmas in 1928, so the novelty of Rome’s grandest movie palace was still much in evidence. Christmas fell on a Tuesday that year, and the offering starting that Monday (Christmas Eve) and running through the day after Christmas was MGM’s hit drama, Our Dancing Daughters, which had received its New York City premiere a few months earlier and was instrumental in catapulting to stardom MGM’s latest sensation, leading lady Joan Crawford.
Like the Capitol’s initial offering, Lilac Time, Our Dancing Daughters was technically a sound film, as it had a soundtrack, but there was no dialogue—just music and effects. Late 1928 the heart of the silent-sound transitional period, and films could be any of several types: all-talking, part-talking, non-dialogue but with music and effects (such as Our Dancing Daughters) or completely silent, with no soundtrack whatsoever. Our Dancing Daughters was the seventh feature shown since the grand opening, and the fourth with a synchronized track of music and effects. Of the others, two were part-talkies and only one (The Lights of New York) was a 100% all-talking film. There would be no truly silent films at the Capitol until January, when a policy of Sunday double features—one with a recorded track and one with theater organ accompaniment, would be instigated.
The shows on Christmas ran continuously from 2 to 11 pm. As was always the case in those days, there would be much more on the bill than just the feature film. Preceding it (or following it, depending on what time one arrived at the theater) were (probably) two Vitaphone shorts (titles unspecified in the Rome Sentinel advertisement), a newsreel, and a sing-a-long led by the Capitol’s house organist, Robert Bancroft. Organ-led sing-a-longs were a normal offering at the Capitol during those first few months of its existence, and this one was entitled “Christmas Presents and New Year’s Resolutions.” Though Mr. Bancroft left the Capitol in 1929, as many of you know, our Möller theater organ remains and is still used on a regular basis.
Attendance records are not available for this period in the Capitol’s history, so we can’t know for certain how many saw that show on Christmas day of 1928, but we can speculate that the crowds were large and very likely excited to partake of a program in Rome’s shiny and ornate new picture palace. 83 years later we’re still here and still entertaining Romans and out-of-town patrons as well. But NOT, in 2011, at least, on Christmas day!