A THOUSAND CUTS: The Bizarre Underground World of Collectors and Dealers Who Saved the Movies by Dennis Bartok and Jeff Joseph

The Bizarre Underground World of Collectors and Dealers Who Saved the Movies by Dennis Bartok and Jeff Joseph

University Press of Mississippi, 2016

It’s been more than a year since Dennis Bartok and Jeff Joseph’s book on film print collectors was sent to me for review. At the time I very much enjoyed reading about the people I know, and some I hadn’t heard of, who had gone out of their way to preserve films by visiting warehouses that were selling them off, or throwing them away, or paying projectionists just for the experience of having the films for themselves to enjoy on their own, but I just couldn’t bring myself to discuss the finality that was constantly brought up in the book, including a final photographic image of a bunch of 16mm projectors haphazardly tossed in a dumpster. My own interest in the projected image began around five years old with a little toy called a Ghost Gun, a little handheld gun-shaped projector that shined a light through a piece of paper with a ‘ghost’ drawn on it and you’d shoot the gun and it would poke holes in the paper, resulting in holes in the projected ‘ghost.’ I felt it was just incredible to project the image and to move it around the room.

My dad just loved movies. He had a Da-Lite projector screen set up and he’d call us all in and show us the black and white silent 20-minute-long condensed version of Star Wars on Super 8, and while it was a little less impressive at home compared to the presentation at the UA 150 in downtown Seattle, this was such a fun way to watch movies. Soon he acquired one of the first VCRs in my smaller town and a 50” projection TV and the projector was packed away, but I always loved that rattle rattle of the film going through, the winding, the whole thing. I’ve never been able to accept any finality to the motion picture experience, and I had to set the book down for a while to think about it all.

Now, a year later, I’ve built a website honoring the theaters that have held onto their 35mm projection equipment at 35mmforever.com, and Christopher Nolan is unveiling his latest film in the widest released of 70mm in years, with Quentin Tarantino following same just last year. Attending my second screening of the Hateful 8, sitting in the furthest-back seat so I could hear and watch the film run, I peeked back and saw the projectionist hold onto the large strip of film from the platter and just loved knowing you could actually see the image we were watching on the screen, in is hand.

And this sensation is something that was fully known to these collectors. They weren’t just picking up a photocopy; they were picking up the thing itself, the movie, the image. They could hold it up to a light and know they ‘had it’ in their hands. It wasn’t something to stick on a shelf, it was something much closer to the heart, something one could hold. And in this book Bartok and Joseph introduce us to the secretive world of the people who kept older films alive by locating and storing these prints, and amazingly setting up viewing apparatuses in their own living spaces.

It’s hard to imagine in this age where people routinely copy films or have them on light little discs, or even just start playing with the click of a button, that people would risk FBI investigations, public humiliation, and having their homes raided just because they loved movies.

One of the more famous hoarders of heavy cinema was Planet of the Apes star Roddy McDowall, with over 500 film prints snagged in the famous raid on his house. His story made the Los Angeles Times, and the fear of having collections snagged sent film lovers even further underground in the pursuit and sharing of their contraband. The story of these years is the thesis of Bartok’s story, and he writes it as if it were a suspense novel. Again, it’s hard to imagine in these years of such easy access, but once picking up a film can at the back door of a projection book with soaked in the mystery of smoky noir.

The players of Bartok’s tome include TCM’s Robert Osborne, relating the secret film vault of Rock Hudson, Leonard Maltin, and filmmaker Joe Dante, in addition to a kooky coterie of canned-film collectors, some more sane than others. One of the more visible, Ken Kramer, cobbled together his own print of Porgy & Bess, the longest known version, and one that was shared in the late great New York space known as the Ziegfeld.

Collectors today still keep a lid on their lists, afraid of copyright owners coming out to collect their ‘possessions.’ A practice much less heard of today, though legally there is some oomph to it, though once a film has hit the digital arena and the owner recompensed somehow, the magical film print has less value to these owners, and is more something that just plain takes up too much space in a garage.

Yet, as Bartok suggests a final death knell to the practice, today we find groups like the American Genre Film Archive sharing their wares throughout the Alamo Drafthouse film chain, with many of those venues equipped with 35mm projectors. Movie palaces around the country that never succumbed to the lure of digital, as they were not dependent on film revenue to stay alive, continue to project film, and some that is their only format, like the mighty Oakland Paramount, while the great Grand Lake in Oakland never faded, and also presents the 70mm format. Seattle’s Cinerama hosts annual film fests, including 70mm, and Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade hosts many a celluloid retrospective, with multiple venues in the New York and Los Angeles area ready to project, from the East Village’s Anthology Film Archives and the newly minted Metrograph’s Chinatown locations, and the mighty New Beverly Cinema, now owned by Quentin Tarantino, projecting the rarest of the rare, even paying huge shipping fees to import one-copy-only film prints for presentation, with many of these films having no digital representation at all.

A glorious heavily researched tale, A Thousand Cuts introduces readers to the geekiest of the geek, practitioners of a truly rare craft. Purchasing a multi-region Blu-ray player is a definite form of film love, hanging out around a dumpster waiting for a warehouse to shut down for the night is quite another. One thing we can be certain of, is no matter how much the studios may disregard their own history, and their own clientele, true film lovers continue to keep the carbon arc burning, illuminating daring dreams around the world, and for their obsessions, we can be thankful.

‘Dunkirk’ Scores Widest 70MM Release in 25 Years

Dunkirk” will appear in 125 70MM theaters, Warner Bros. Pictures said Wednesday. That’s the widest release in the format in 25 years, a testament to director Christopher Nolan’s clout and belief in the superiority of these screenings.

‘Dunkirk’ Scores Widest 70MM Release in 25 Years

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5885759au)
Christopher Nolan
The Dark Knight Rises – 2012
Director: Christopher Nolan
Warner Bros. Pictures
On/Off Set

Alamo Drafthouse And Kodak Join Forces For REEL FILM DAY!

3/5 – March 5, Alamo Drafthouses across the land are unreeling 35mm prints for all to enjoy in the name of Reel Film Day.


Warren Oates classics on 35mm at Lincoln Center in July

July 2016:

A smorgasbord of Warren Oates’ sweaty face filling the screen at Lincoln Center this summer with 35mm prints of RACE WITH THE DEVIL, THE HIRED HAND, BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, 92 IN THE SHADE, and many more!



Is it time to bring back the projectionist?

Then there’s the texture of the image itself. Rather than the neat grids of pixels you get with digital, the colours on a film strip come from layers of microscopic silver halide crystals, the positions of which differ from frame to frame. That’s why a static digital shot of an unchanging scene looks frozen, while on film, you’re always keenly aware that time is passing.

“Digital might be more predictable, but the problem is you can no longer see the best version of the film,” Nolan told the group. “In other words, cinemas are taking the McDonald’s approach: yeah, it’s all a bit worse, but at least it’s consistent.”

The Telegraph: Bring back the projectionists!


Meet the Brave Projectionists Behind ‘The Hateful Eight’ 70mm Roadshow

“There is no question it’s light years better looking than the DCP. The digital files are flat, dull by comparison. But what we’re doing here is allowing audiences to see what we’ve lost as a society. It’s a glimpse into how things were, and all the effort is worth it when you talk to someone who truly experienced something different than what they’ve become used to. The excitement is palpable!”

Meet the Brave Projectionists Behind ‘The Hateful Eight’ 70mm Roadshow


NPR: Projection Fans Are Grateful For ‘Hateful Eight’ In 70 Millimeter

That’s where Chapin Cutler comes in. He’s the head of Boston Light and Sound, the company in charge of gathering old equipment like reels and lenses and retrofitting theaters so they can show this movie. It can be complicated.

“In one case, we had to chop open a door that had been cemented shut and put the equipment up on the second floor by bringing in a forklift,” Cutler says.

Movie Fans Grateful for 70mm Hateful 8!


85 Years of the Projection Booth in Movies

This 12-minute film created by Joseph O. Holmes features clips from 50 different films that take place in a projection booth, from Buster Keaton’s “Sherlock, Jr.” all the way up to Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds.”

The short debuted at the Redstone Theater at The Museum of the Moving Image on October 4, 2013, as part of the opening reception for Holmes’s “The Booth: The Final Days of Film Projection,” an exhibition of photographs. 39 images from his still-photo project “The Booth” can be viewed on his portfolio site: josephholmes.io/Portfolio/The-Booth-(2012)

85 Years of the Projection Booth in Movies


Kodak’s Film Division Will Likely Be Profitable in 2016 Thanks to Directors Like Nolan & Tarantino

Film as a physical format is long from dead.

That’s according to Kodak’s CEO Jeff Clarke, who expects their film business to be profitable in 2016 after restructures and three quarters of breaking even in 2015. Earlier this year, Kodak and the major film studios, along with film advocates like Christopher Nolan, J.J. Abrams, Quentin Tarantino, and Martin Scorsese, reached an agreement to ensure the survival of the format, and it’s clear that it’s working.

Film’s Not Dead

THE HATEFUL 8 full 70mm roadshow venue list released!

New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, Washington DC, Houston, Detroit, Phoenix, Seattle, Tampa, Minneapolis, Denver, Miami, Cleveland, Orlando, Sacramento, St. Louis, Portland, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Baltimore, San Diego, Nashville, Kansas City, San Antonio, West Palm Beach, Birmingham, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, Austin, New Orleans, Providence, Knoxville, Santa Barbara, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver.

The Hateful 8 70mm Roadshow Release Tickets


Peter Flynn’s DYING OF THE LIGHT World Premiere at Doc NYC

Weds, Nov. 8, at 7:15 pm, director Peter Flynn offers the world premiere of his new documentary DYING OF THE LIGHT at Doc NYC. Director Peter Flynn in attendance.

DYING OF THE LIGHT World Premiere ticket and screening info

As theaters worldwide struggle to afford to maintain the superior, and more human, technology, Flynn’s film surveys the rarefied skill of film projectionists in their words, aiming to capture a generational shift with a mixture of nostalgia and introspection.


A scene from Peter Flynn’s DYING OF THE LIGHT

Official DYING OF THE LIGHT website

Two different versions of HATEFUL EIGHT – 70 mm viewers get more!

When audiences pay to see the limited roadshow engagement of Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” this holiday season, it won’t just be the projection of Ultra Panavision 70mm photography that distinguishes it from multiplex versions released two weeks later. It will be a slightly different — and longer — film overall.

“The roadshow version has an overture and an intermission, and it will be three hours, two minutes,” Tarantino told Variety. “The multiplex version is about six minutes shorter, not counting the intermission time, which is about 12 minutes.”

Tarantino cuts two versions of HATEFUL EIGHT – Variety


Christopher Nolan on 35mm at the London Film Festival

Christopher Nolan Praises 35mm, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and Quentin Tarantino

“One of the terrible things happening with independent distribution in the States is there is a level of Blu-Ray distribution that is going on,” Nolan said. “Theatre owners should be saying no to that. Exhibition shouldn’t work in such a way that you present the worse possible version of the film until someone in the audience complains. Exhibitors need to put their best foot forward and have standards. No cinema should be showing a consumer grade format to an audience. At least, they shouldn’t be doing it without saying to the public this is best we can get.”


Christopher Nolan premieres new 35mm short film QUAY at Manhattan’s Film Forum!

Christopher Nolan, spearhead for many things dark, has taken on the task of presenting the Brothers Quay, the famed stop-motion animators, in his new 35mm short film, QUAY. Having its world premiere at Manhattan’s Film Forum on Weds August 19th, before embarking on a North American tour, Nolan’s film is accompanied by three Brothers Quay shorts, all on 35mm, in a program entitled THE QUAY BROTHERS IN 35MM.


The three films include IN ABSENTIA (2000), composed with broken pencils and lead shavings, the explorations of a porcenlain doll in a dreamer’s world in THE COMB (1991); and the Bruno Schulz–based STREET OF CROCODILES (1986). Nolan’s short film QUAY (2015) shows the twins at work in their London studio.

The Quay Brothers’ THE COMB (1991). Courtesy Zeitgeist Films. Playing August 19-25.

The Quay Brothers’ THE COMB (1991). Courtesy Zeitgeist Films. Playing August 19-25.

Long a champion of film as the medium to both record and project, Nolan’s continues his forward thrust in presenting films as they were meant to be seen in this wonderful tribute to the art and form of motion pictures.

The Quay Brothers’ IN ABSENTIA (2000). Courtesy Zeitgeist Films. Playing August 19-25.

The Quay Brothers’ IN ABSENTIA (2000). Courtesy Zeitgeist Films. Playing August 19-25.

Other locations for the tour include:

Film Forum New York City NY August 19-25, 2015

Alamo Drafthouse Richardson Richardson TX September 3 -7, 2015

Cinefamily Los Angeles CA September 4-10, 2015

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Houston TX September 12-13, 2015

Alamo Drafthouse Ritz Austin TX September 17, 2015

Cleveland Cinematheque Cleveland OH September 24 – 27, 2015

Brattle Theatre Cambridge MA September 25 – October 1, 2015

Detroit Institute of Art Detroit MI October 9 – 11, 2015

SIFF Film Center Seattle WA October 9 – 15, 2015

The Music Box Theatre Chicago IL October 16 – 22, 2015

TIFF Bell Lightbox Toronto October 27, 2015

35 Years of STAR TREK movies on 35mm in Philadelphia

From Friday, December 5th through Wednesday, December 10th, the first six films in the franchise will be presented at the PFS Roxy Theater in downtown Philadelphia.

Individual tickets for each screening are $10.00. An all-access pass for all six films with reserved seating is $50.00. There is also a $35.00 general admission pass that will allow the buyer into four films of their choosing.