Monday, February 11, 2013

Feb.11: Biograph Theatre's 41st anniversary

"Matinee Madcap," a nine-minute homage to one-reel silent comedies, was shot in 16mm at the Biograph Theatre in 1974. It was shown there almost too many times.

On February 11, 1972, Richmonders got their first dose of a Biograph party. That was the day of the Biograph Theatre's invitational opening, which offered a screening of "King of Hearts" (1966) and all the champagne you could drink. It was wall-to-wall film buffs, scenesters, media folk and so-called beautiful people.

Chuck Wrenn called this morning to wish me a happy 41st anniversary. As always, it was fun to hop aboard the Wayback Machine for a few minutes with my old friend. 

In its first year of operation at 814W. Grace St. the optimistic Biograph, which billed itself as a repertory cinema, presented over 200 different feature-length films. That year's avalanche of movies and new associations proved to be an eye-opening education for the somewhat cocky kid who was the Biograph's 24-year-old manager.

Fast forward to December of 1987: With the Golden Age of Repertory Cinema already in the rear-view mirror, the exhausted Biograph closed its doors forever.

During its run, that little independent movie house not only encouraged us dreamers to seek out a world outside of Richmond's traditional limitations, it focused our attention on subtle details that tattooed our minds with images. For some who poured our time into watching light move on a screen at 814W. Grace St. those
images still have the power to enlighten. 

Like me, Chuck was on the Biograph's staff for its opening. To follow suit, I want to wish everyone who worked at the Biograph -- with just two exceptions -- a happy 41st. And, please don't forget to have a good time.

Here are links to some stories about the Biograph at a web site of mine called Biograph Times:
OK, about the two exceptions. One of them was an usher who got fired after wigging out and roughing up a cashier at one of the mid-'70s Christmas parties. The other was a projectionist whose name I still don't speak or write. Warning: the story of that dark episode is not happy nostalgia. Still want to read it? Go here -- The Jellypig

Want even more? There are plenty of other stories at that web site.

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