Feb 23, 2009

New Yorker Films and Theatre

New Yorkers are abuzz, but blue, about the sudden news that the venerable distributor New Yorker Films is no more.  After 44 years. 

Dan Talbot took on the distribution of art-house movies in 1965, having taken management of the New Yorker Theatre in 1960.  The Upper West Side repertory cinema was at 88th & Broadway, where its 900 seats were filled for such screenings as the double-bill of Triumph of the Will (1935) and Night and Fog (1955).  That audacious 1960 program had been preceded that year by the first commercial run of Pull My Daisy (1959) -- seen billed here with the noir classic Murder My Sweet (1944) and the first-run British import Our Man in Havana

The New Yorker was renovated for two screens in 1979, reopening as the New Yorker 1 & 2 Twin Theaters, but razed in 1985.  

Yet New Yorker Films went on, still the leading art film and nontheatrical distributor when the theater was no more.  I recall throughout the 1980s looking forward to each new New Yorker catalog, which came to film programmers in handsomely illustrated glossy format. 

Now all those film prints and such will be going up for auction.

As recently as this past year, the Orphan Film Symposium was still benefiting from the great work of New Yorker Films.  The company provided many swell door prizes, donating choice DVD and video releases.  

Thank you.  Thanks to Dan Talbot, José Lopez, Cindi Rowell, and other NYers. 

p.s.  One degree of separation:  

On Saturday night, I saw the closing screening of Anthology Film Archives's Alfred Leslie retrospective.  Alfred (friend of the show since Orphans 2) continues to make movies, 50 years after making Pull My Daisy and 60 years after shooting his first films (lost in the infamous fire of October 1966).  New Alfred Leslie video works wrapped up the Anthology program.  The musical, animated, computer- and video-generated works were a pleasure.  

The sweetest moment came last.  New Yorker Alfred Leslie's newest work is a documentary (another first!) about his own film career, entitled A Stranger Calls at Midnight (A Self-Interview, of Sorts).  It's worth seeing for several reasons, but let me just mention the best moment.  

At the very end, an intertitle tell us that just one year ago, a previously unknown outtake from Pull My Daisy turned up in Alfred's refrigerator, where he had long ago stashed film remnants of the '66 fire that destroyed his studio.  There, for less than a minute, we see a battered fragment of film showing Alfred and co-director Robert Frank improvising a bit of dance and shtick for the camera, which was rolling on the set. 

Things die, but they also resurrect.