Thursday, February 2, 2012

Book talk and slide show: Left in the Dark: Portraits of San Francisco Movie Theatres

On Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 6:30 in the Koret Auditorium, the Art, Music and Recreation Center and the San Francisco History Center will present a book talk and slide show for Left in the Dark: Portraits of San Francisco Movie Theatres. This new book celebrates twentieth century movie theatres and movie-going through lush full-color fine art photographs and personal essays that offer both scholarly and literary appeal.

Julie Lindow, editor of Left in the Dark, will introduce the book. Authors Katherine Petrin and R.A. McBride will then present a "then-and-now" slide show with commentary. There will be a book signing following the panel discussion where Left in the Dark will be available for purchase. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. All Library programs are free and open to the public.

San Franciscans are fortunate to live in one of the world’s most vital movie-going cities and one with so many of its historic movie houses still standing. By showing a continuum from past to present, Left in the Dark offers hope that even as these landmarks crumble, the spirit of cinema thrives.

San Francisco’s film industry and movie theater tradition is a long and significant one. Between the gold rush boom of the 1850s and the advent of the moving picture in the 1880s, San Francisco’s population grew rapidly and with it, so did its reputation as an entertainment town. The City became a nexus for cultural life, known for its live theatres and other ‘palaces of amusement’ such as opera houses, dance halls and eventually, vaudeville theatres where many of the first short films were introduced as part of the variety-show programming.

San Francisco also boasts several film industry firsts. In 1878, in nearby Palo Alto, San Francisco resident Eadweard Muybridge took the first stop-motion photos which lead directly to the birth of the movies. In 1880, on Pine Street at the San Francisco Art Association, the world’s first public movie exhibition was made possible with the debut of the Zoopraxiscope movie projector. In 1902, brothers Herbert, Harry and Earl C. Miles, established the first movie “exchange” on Market Street for renting (instead of selling) prints to exhibitors--a more cost efficient practice, which enabled the new art form to spread and increase in popularity.

Since the late 1970s, The Art, Music and Recreation Center has collected newspaper articles on many topics relating to the art and musical life of San Francisco and has organized them by subject in the Newspaper Clipping Files. One such file is titled Moving Picture -- Theaters. Included within this file are hundreds of articles from our local press (including the Chronicle, Examiner, Bay Guardian, SF Weekly and other local neighborhood publications, many of which are not archived online). Within these files one can find documentation of theaters opening, such as the article “A Flashy New Theater to Open in SF” about the Galaxy on Van Ness (Chronicle 11/28/1983), and theaters closing, “City Losing another Single-Screen Theater”, lamenting the loss of the Coronet on Geary (Examiner 7/21/2000). Many articles also document the life of a theater, for example “Lumiere to Join Repertory Club (Chronicle 8/18/1998) reports that the Lumiere converted one of its screens making SF the leader in repertory cinemas.

Left in the Dark: Portraits of San Francisco Movie Theatres, R.A. McBride, photographer; Julie Lindow,editor (Charta, 2010).

Additional resources:

Theatres of San Francisco
by Jack Tillmany (Arcadia, 2005).

Fox, The Last Word: Story of the World's Finest Theatre by Preston J. Kaufmann (Showcase Publications, 1979).
Fox Theatre, San Francisco, California: Thomas W. Lamb, Architect, Steve Levin, author and editor (Theatre Historical Society, 2003).

The Man Who Stopped Time: The Illuminating Story of Eadweard Muybridge: Pioneer Photographer, Father of the Motion Picture, Murderer by Brian Clegg (Joseph Henry Press, 2007).

San Francisco History Center Historical Photograph Collection

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