Film scholars have been pretty insensitive to the myriad ways you can watch films. Most of the earliest film scholars watched in a theater with a group of people. They assumed that would be the only way to watch films, primarily because it was the only way to watch films. In some cases, a particular screening would have been a one-and-done situation. Consequently, they wrote about the film so that it survived beyond the evanescence of a theatrical exhibition.
This is a good weekend to be a film geek because you can watch films in ways that might seem novel or even foreign to most viewers today. Sure, you can watch a film at the New York Film Festival and pay as much as $25 to watch a film that will be out in New York–area theaters anyway. However, that’s not the case for the Views from the Avant-Garde series, which I plan on attending this Friday. For a more worthwhile glimpse at film exhibition, you could recreate the experience of watching a silent film in a movie palace and compare it to watching a film at a drive-in theater. Here’s how.
I’m a big fan of the Loew’s Jersey. Built in 1929, it is a landmark movie palace that has been restored over the years to resemble its original state. Whereas most movie palaces have been divided into multiplexes, altered beyond recognition, transformed into retail stores or churches, or are simply torn down, this one has remained a viable venue for film screenings and live performances.
To showcase their restoration work and to preserve a forgotten form of moviegoing, the Friends of Loew’s Jersey occasionally screen movies, including silent films and an annual horror movie series around Halloween.
The Friends of Loew’s Jersey will be screening two films on Sunday, October 5, beginning at 3:00 PM. My Best Girl (1926) stars Mary Pickford and the man she married after Douglas Fairbanks, Charles “Buddy” Rogers. To add to the authentic experience of the show, there will be live organ accompaniment during the screening. Neat! There will also be a short film, Movie Night, starring Charlie Chase. It’s a rare chance to watch silent films as they would have been seen in their day. And if you don’t mind breaking from the authentic 1920s experience, go get Indian food after the show.
Starting this Friday, October 4, you can see films in a “drive-in” theater at the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
The Empire Drive-In is more of an art installation than a bona-fide drive-in movie theater. The installation is open during the hall’s regular hours, but on select days, it transforms into a drive-in theater. To create the drive-in experience, there are sixty cars and trucks, salvaged from a nearby junkyard, installed to accommodate visitors. The screenings run from October 4 through October 20, although you should check the schedule because they’re screenings films only on select days. On those days, the installation is only open until 2:00 PM, presumably to allow time to prepare that evening’s screening.