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Film fest ‘jewel’ grows

NORM LANDIS
Posted 8/14/14

Capitolfest, what one first-time attendee called “a jewel of a festival,” grew about another 17 percent last weekend with 522 attending at least part of the three-day, seven-session …

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Film fest ‘jewel’ grows

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Capitolfest, what one first-time attendee called “a jewel of a festival,” grew about another 17 percent last weekend with 522 attending at least part of the three-day, seven-session event.   That includes 56 percent from out of state.

That puts the economic impact, calculated last year at more than $257,000, in the $300,000 range this year.

The Capitol Theatre’s showing of early films (1920s, 30s), some silent accompanied by the original installation 1928 Moller organ, and some early “talkies,” was attended by people from Canada, New York and 21 other states.   Capitol Director Art Pierce observed that “our audience is getting younger.” The event is presented by the Capitol and the Rome Grand Theatre Organ Society.

Many have already reserved rooms for Capitolfest 13 Aug. 7-9, 2015, when Nancy Carroll (1903-1965) will be the “Tribute Star.”  (See related story, page 2.)

About 24 percent filled out survey forms (to help organizers improve the festival,  to get a free soda or popcorn, or both).  Among them 87 percent said they are coming back and the other 13 percent said “maybe” they would return.  None said they were not coming back.

The festival has a slogan “A vacation, not a marathon.”   The pace of the event, with time for meals and sleep, was among the items praised by a survey taker with another  from Toronto saying “Thanks for making it our favorite part of the whole year” and a Rome resident saying “This is one of the best things the Capitol does.”

Another commented: “We really like the 9:30 a.m. start and finish soon after 11 p.m. That, plus ample time for meals, means we get a good night’s sleep and have relaxing days—thus of all the vintage film weekends we attend annually, Capitolfest is the one where we are least likely to fall asleep in the theater. We actually see the films, which is what we came to do.” –Mendenhall, Pa.

A San Francisco resident here for the first time said, “You have a jewel of a festival, in a relaxed small-town setting. Your high standards in continuing to favor 35mm (at a time when many are taking the low road of digital) are especially to be commended.”

The Capitol uses variable speed projectors to match the intended speed of the films, with carbon arcs burning to make the light.

The favorite film of the weekend (by a landslide) was the recently preserved silent, “Forgotten Faces” (Paramount, 1928), followed by the talkie “Ladies’ Man” (1931), and the musical “My Weakness” (1933).  Favorite short of the weekend was the color promotional cartoon, “Teapot Town” (1936).

Pierce said, “We knew this was a particularly important presentation, inasmuch as Library of Congress had preserved this print specifically for Capitolfest to allow for its first public screening since its original release.  (Prior to this the only available print was a 16mm from the Museum of Modern Art, that was too badly shrunken to be projected.)  The film was every bit as good as the period reviews claimed, and better.  Many in attendance now regard this as one of the greatest movies of the era, and we are pleased to know that we were partially responsible for its rediscovery.

“The outstanding theater organ score by Avery Tunningley added to the effectiveness of the presentation,” he said.

Pierce noted that because some of the cinephiles filled out their survey forms before the final session  (some as early as Saturday afternoon) “the ‘favorite films’ votes tend to favor those shown on the first two days….  Otherwise, I suspect the bizarre musical, ‘My Weakness’ (Fox, 1933) would have received more votes (and probably would have been the second favorite, behind ‘Forgotten Faces’).”

Pierce said, “One trend we’ve noticed over the past few years, and most particularly this year, is that our audience is getting younger.  Naturally, over 11 years we’ve had various attendees come and go, but the number of total attendees has continued to increase steadily since Capitolfest 2 (2004).  There has been an increased interest in older films by younger persons over the past decade.”

Saying he doesn’t claim to be an expert on the subject, he suggests “the ready availability of older films on home video, over the internet, and on TV cable stations, has made movies from the ‘20s and ‘30s more known to persons who didn’t grow up with them.  Plus, the very fact that these movies were not the films seen of their parents, or even their grandparents, makes them something new—as opposed to something ‘old and stodgy.’” 

One of the festival’s long-time attendees (from Lynbrook, Nassau County) noted this in a post on Nitrateville, a “vintage” movie discussion group:

“It’s been wonderful to see this festival actually grow over the years. Imagine a classic film festival, with the ‘newest’ film shown being from 1947, actually getting bigger! I’m also an attendee of Cinefest and have been to Cinesation (R.I.P.), so I recognize all the usual suspects attending but this year I saw many, many new faces. The age demographic seems to be widening, too. While a larger percentage are probably still in their late middle age, there were many people younger than that at this year’s show. A very encouraging trend.”

That website got it’s name because old films had been made on nitrate stock. It was very flammable so was replaced by safety film for movies since 1948.

Those attending came from Canada (10 percent);  New York State (44 percent),  Pennsylvania (7 percent), Illinois (6 percent), California (4 percent), Massacheusetts and New Jersey (each 3 percent).

Last year Rome-area residents had exceeded New York City people for the first time, but this year City residents (including  Brooklyn and the Bronx) pulled back into the lead with 8 percent, while Romans numbered 7 percent and film-goers from Syracuse, Rochester and Chicago were each 4 percent.  Other top cities represented were Philadelphia (3 percent) and Toronto (2 percent).

Those filling out the survey (others no doubt stayed at other places), stayed at: Angel’s Nest Bed & Breakfast, The Beeches, Days Inn (Oriskany), Econo Lodge, Hotel Utica, Oak & Ivy Bed & Breakfast, Quality Inn, Red Carpet Inn, Wingate.

Those filling out the survey ate at: Applebee’s, Big Daddy’s Sandwiches, Brenda’s Natural Foods, Boyz From Italy, Bucky’s, Burger King, Caribbean Restaurant, China House, Coalyard Charlie’s, Denny’s, DiCastro’s, Vescio’s Franklin Hotel, Fresh Mex, Fuji, Iron Kettle, KFC, Luigi’s, Michelina’s Nicky Doodles, Paramount Diner, Risen Bakery, La Roma, The Savoy, Stampede Steak House, Subway, Teddy’s, Taco Bell, The Vigneto, Wendy’s.   Others no doubt ate at additional places.

On the net:  romecapitol.com/capitolfest.html

www.nitrateville.com/ (search for capitolfest)

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