It’s film festival time again in Toronto, with TIFF eating up space in the entertainment sections. There’s another festival just across the border in Buffalo, N.Y., however, that I’m more excited about: The first annual WNY Movie Expo.
This fest has risen from the ashes of Cinefest, a haven for 16mm film collectors and enthusiasts for 35 years. The annual Syracuse event, always low-key and miles from any red carpets, shut down in 2014. The gang running it was just out of gas, the projectors, they said, were breaking down, and they were down to their last few exciter lamps.
Besides, it was argued, digital, on-demand access has put film to rest.
The great value of these festivals, however, is really in the gathering. They know this in Los Angeles, where the 52nd annual Cinecon Classic Film Festival just wrapped. The shared audience experience of film is lost on home screens no matter how 4K or enormous. Besides, the black and white gems they show at these 16mm festivals are crazy rare and never show up even on TCM. That’s why I’ll be heading down the QEW this weekend to take in what the WNY Movie Expo has to offer.
That includes, in a welcome departure from Cinefest, vintage TV shows on 16mm film. Saturday night’s bill includes a salute to the great Rod Serling, hosted by archivist and historian Michael Piper and sponsored by the Rod Serling Archive at the Bundy Museum of History and Art.
Friday morning a Playhouse 90 episode from 1956 is scheduled. Saturday brings an episode of Make Room for Daddy from January of 1960 with Jack Benny and Gale Gordon joining star Danny Thomas.
The festival has some growing pains to sort out. A screening of a classic Red Skelton show with original commercials is running pretty much at the same time as the Serling tribute in another room. Saturday night there’s also Ed Sullivan’s 10th Anniversary Show from 1958.
Still, hats off to long-time Cinefest dealer Alex Bartosh for putting friends and collectors back in one room again. The event runs all weekend in Buffalo just across the border at the Adam’s Mark Hotel, where parking is just ten bucks a day. (That’ll buy you about an hour at TIFF.) Daily admission is just $12, six dollars on Sunday when things wrap up early.
Besides the TV treats there are pre-code theatrical comedies as well as rare films from Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney. There will be dealer rooms too, full of 16mm films for sale and other movie-related memorabilia. Read more about the WNY Film Expo here and go here for the full schedule.