Film Forum

209 W. Houston Street,
New York, NY 10014

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Showing 126 - 150 of 164 comments

hardbop
hardbop on April 1, 2005 at 7:43 am

I am a regular attendee of the Film Forum and do remember occasionally attending screenings at the Watts Street site in the eighties. Out of curiousity I asked Bruce Goldstein how the long the FF was closed between the time the Watts Street facility closed and the new W. Houston Street site opened. He said they were closed for a about a year. Watts Street closed in ‘89 and W. Houston opened in '90.

I remember those annual “silly” summer fests and remember that the FF took a lot of flak for stopping them. I guess FF felt they had exhausted that fest, but the public didn’t.

bornjaded
bornjaded on March 21, 2005 at 11:40 pm

The programming at Film Forum can’t be beat. It’s the best in the country, rivaled perhaps only by Los Angeles’s American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theater. The concurrence of new films with retrospective films is absolutely brilliant, keeping this as a first-run venue while declaring the immortal relevance of past cinema.

It’s not the greatest place in the world to watch a movie, though. Far from it. It’s great seeing stuff on 35mm, and Film Forum almost always gets great prints. But the theaters are so small, it’s hardly a cinematic experience, nor is it very intimate. Spaces are narrow and screenings usually sell out, so there’s no leg room — you have to sit with both legs together, feet on the ground — and it’s easy to knock elbows or shoulders with the patron seated next to you. Furthermore, during the winter, the only option for stashing your winter coats is under the seat.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to see pristine prints of “Days of Heaven” and “Bound For Glory” while I lived in NYC, but the cramped atmosphere of Film Forum also cramped the epic grandeur of these films.

Also, the projected image has a foamy-looking texture, for some reason. Perhaps it’s the screens themselves.

Also, films are occasionally out-of-focus and the floor staff and/or management will argue the point and refuse to fix the problem. This happened on a few occasions, notably with ‘The Hidden Fortress,’ which, to date, I have not seen but would have had Film Forum sharply focused it.

Now, the good stuff. Film Forum is one of the only venues to regularly program silent films (at least one retrospective per year will include silent films), and live piano accompaniment is usually provided. Sound is usually good, the best available prints are nearly always obtained, and the lobby is attractive, with some nice food behind the concession counter and some even nicer people.

It’s also quite a bargain, if you’re a member. If I recall correctly, as a member, I’d get two-films on a double-bill for only $5. That means, brilliant prints of ‘Imitation of Life’ and ‘Written on the Wind’ for only five dollars. You’ll pay about the same price at the New Beverly in Los Angeles for ratty old prints, creaky seats and even creakier sound, for the micro-luxury you get at Film Forum.

In summary, this is a New York City staple.

RobertR
RobertR on December 7, 2004 at 8:05 am

I guess there should be a seperate listing for the old Film Forum?

Camden
Camden on July 17, 2004 at 11:51 am

That Murnau show is going to be really something. I noticed that “The Last Laugh” was photographed by Karl Freund, later director of “The Mummy” and the camera man for “I Love Lucy.” I think his work on that TV series played as large a part in its success as anything else, including the writers and cast; that show shimmers and sparkles and glows. It’s so beautiful to look at, which immediately stops you from channel surfing when you happen across it. I saw a crossover “Make Room For Daddy” at the Museum of Televsion with Lucy and Ricky Ricardo visiting, not lit and photographed by Freund, and all the luminescent magic was missing from the look of the film.

Camden

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on July 13, 2004 at 11:13 am

Just want to let you know that FF will be have one of its not to be missed festivals in Sept. thanks to Bruce G and Steve Sterner.

This will be the Murnau(is he the greatest of them all? It’s open to debate but definately he is one of the most worthy contenders. And Sunrise not number one on the AFI list! If there is a greater american film please let me know I which one it is.)

This will rate along with the Lubitsch and Stiller/Sjorstrom festivals as one of their best which says a lot.(I think I was the only one who went to the latter but the films were so haunting and beautiful they will remain with me for the rest of my life.)

Bruce and Steve, I hate to be greedy but do we see a DW Griffith festival in your future?(And just think that until recently the Liberty still stood on 42nd St.)

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on July 2, 2004 at 9:36 am

Thanks, byranb, for the update on the Elgin !

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on July 2, 2004 at 9:35 am

Interesting thought, Camden, to move Film Forum to the RKO Commodore in Williamsburg, Bklyn. So the revival / avant garde movie buffs will follow the yuppies from SoHo and the East Village into the Brooklyn neighborhoods closest to Manhattan.

There are many more closed theaters on Broadway, Brooklyn, southeast of the RKO Commodore ! I would love to discuss them with you !

Camden
Camden on July 1, 2004 at 11:50 am

I love the Film Forum’s programming. By the time I’d seen 99% of their Chaplin festival back in ‘97, I was dreaming that I was Chaplin. They ran out of film to show just in time to save my sanity. The remarks here really focused something I’d never really consciously paid that much attention to, which is that the theatres really are just small screening rooms, unfortunately. They should find a better theatre; with the backing of that foundation and the surfeit of closed theatres in New York City, that shouldn’t be too difficult to do. I’d suggest trying the Commodore Theatre in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Two huge screens with an impressive ceiling downstairs, it’s a truly magnificent theatre recently closed, and I imagine they could buy it for a song. It’s right at the JMZ subway line at Marcy Avenue, the very first stop going out of Manhattan, so it’s quite convenient to the usual clientele. It is a shame for the Film Forum’s superb screenings to be limited to such tiny screens and theatres when the situation could be fairly easily remedied, I think.

Camden

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on July 1, 2004 at 9:28 am

Bill Huelbig, I recall part of the live music then was “The Power Of Brass', in particular, the theme from "Rocky”, which has just come out the previous year. I recall an audience reaction similar to your memory.

I saw Tony Bennett at Radio City, with my wife and aunt, Friday September 28 2001, and saw “Wheel Of Fortune” being taped there, with my wife and son, around Sept. 11 2003 (a Sunday). Hokey, but fun.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on July 1, 2004 at 9:11 am

Peter K.: I also saw “Fantasia” at Radio City Music Hall in May 1978. I remember the huge audience applauding at the end of each musical segment – what a wonderful sound that was.

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on July 1, 2004 at 9:05 am

I remember Joan Crawford in “I Saw What You Did”, now that you mention it. She played the mistress of the man who had just murdered his wife before the girls made their “fun” phone call. I think she deserved star billing. Anthony Hopkins was on screen only 27 minutes in “The Silence Of The Lambs”.

I heard about the Elgin from a friend but never went there. I thought it was near 23rd and 8th. My friend went there in 1973 or 1974 for a double bill of the Betty Boop festival and “Night Of The Living Dead”.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on July 1, 2004 at 8:54 am

I think the drive-in speaker survived intact, but the car window sure didn’t! Another memory of that movie: Joan Crawford got star billing, but I think she was in it for about 10 minutes total.

Talking about the Biograph and the Hollywood reminds me of the Elgin Cinema, which was down around 19th St. It wasn’t the cleanest theater and it always had a funny smell, but they sure showed some great classic movies. The first time I saw “The Birds” in a theater was there – same with “Nights of Cabiria”.

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on July 1, 2004 at 5:31 am

Vincent, glad you liked the Biograph. So did I. What is your preferred scope screen to theater ratio for optimum viewing ? You read like the “El Exigente” of the cinema. Thanks for the bit about Frank Crowley and the Regency. I saw “Fantastic Voyage” and “Planet Of The Apes” on the same bill at the Regency in August 1985.

There was also a shabby little theater, called the Hollywood, on the west side of 8th Avenue between, I think, 49th and 50th Sts. where, pre-renovation, I saw a double bill of “Vertigo” and “The Birds” summer 1985.

OK I won’t watch Hennessy or Petrovka.

Bill Huelbig, thanks for the anecdote. Did your dad end up paying for the damaged drive in speaker ?

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on July 1, 2004 at 4:31 am

Peter,
I liked the Biograph very much but again the scope screen wasn’t large enough in relation to the theater.
The excellent programmer there Frank Crowley was the one who also made the Regency such a success.
By the way don’t waste any portion of your life watching Hennesy or Petrovka. I just saw them because they were playing at the Music Hall. At that point the Hall should have just played classic films because what they were showing was so bad they should have been ashamed.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on July 1, 2004 at 12:39 am

“I Saw What You Did” will always live in my memory as the movie where my dad drove out of a drive-in theater with the speaker still attached to the window. It was the summer of ‘65 like Peter K. said, in Rutherford, NJ. I don’t think he liked the movie, and I guess he wanted to get away from it as quickly as possible.

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on June 30, 2004 at 11:28 am

Vincent, I am glad you were not trying to insult me. It reads like we have a disagreement we can live with, between what constitutes a screening room and a theater. I understand what you mean about how what you consider a theater enhances the presentation of a film. What did you think of the Biograph revival cinema on West 57th St. in NYC ? That’s where I first saw “Psycho” on a movie screen Sunday July 10 1988. It was one of many blastedly hot days in that blastedly hot summer, so I stayed for a second screening of “Psycho” after the end of the second feature, titled (oddly enough), “Seconds”. I mention the Biograph, becaue it came closest to your hope of a full-sized revival movie house, complete with interior splendor, of any theater I know or have been in.

What suburb did you grow up in ? The last film I saw at Radio City was “Fantasia” in late May 1978. No, I have never seen Henessy or the Girl from Petrovka, but now that you have mentioned them, I will check them out on the Internet Movie Data Base.

Bill Huelbig, what I liked about Gimmick-O-Rama, besides the Castle films themselves, was the faithful and at times painstaking reproduction of the original Castle gimmicks. “The Tingler” went one better by having a staff member run around the darkened cinema with a
two-foot long rubber Tingler !

Speaking of William Castle, I saw his “I Saw What You Did” in its original run at the RKO Madison in Ridgewood, Queens, NY NY, summer 1965. I also read about it about that time in “Famous Monsters Of Filmland” magazine, edited by Forrest J. Ackerman.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 30, 2004 at 10:44 am

Maybe it has to do with the number of seats in the theater? I always thought Film Forum 1 had the most seats, but that might be an optical illusion because the theater is wider than the other two. If a repertory film is really popular, maybe it gets moved over to theater #1 so they can sell more tickets.

HomegaMan
HomegaMan on June 30, 2004 at 10:31 am

I saw McCabe and Mrs. Miller there as well so we were in the same audience probably same nght too.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 30, 2004 at 10:29 am

Come to think of it, I saw McCabe and Mrs. Miller and La Dolce Vita in Film Forum 1 a few years ago. But Vincent is right: they should show all the scope films in that theater.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on June 30, 2004 at 10:13 am

Bill the wide screen in 1 is not so bad because of the placement of the screen but to tell you the truth they might be the same size. But unfortunately the only widescreen revivals there that I know have been Contempt and Rochefort. They should do all scope in that theater. But the Watt screen in 2 was much larger. Bye Bye Birdie in that old theater was sensational. Haven’t seen it that good since and it is one of my favorites. To have seen it at the Music Hall…

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 30, 2004 at 9:49 am

I loved the old Film Forum on Watts St. – the Gimmick-O-Rama festival was a real dream come true – and when they announced the move to a new theater, my hopes were high. I was disappointed to see the new theaters' screen size, and the narrow shape of the auditoriums themselves as opposed to the wider ones in the old building. Film Forum 1 has an actual wide screen, but I don’t think they ever show the repertory titles in there. On the other hand, the fact that Film Forum exists at all is one of the best things about New York City. I only hope they bring Gimmick-O-Rama back someday.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on June 30, 2004 at 8:53 am

Peter I honestly was not trying to insult you, however my swipes at Film Forum are genuine.
I consider a real theater to be one that is architecurally mean’t to be more than a modest sized screening room. One that is meant to enhance the presentation of a film. A theater that gives a film size and scope and at the same time is a pleasure to sit in as one waits for the lights to dim and for the curtains to part. A real theater lends the occasion excitement.
For documentaries and contemporary art films the Forum is fine as these films would be as well presented on a DVD. However for many of the films Bruce likes to show(not all but most) the size of the auditoriums and the screens often diminish a film.
Screen two of the old Watts St had a really good head-on scope screen that I miss. Now the scope screen puts the letter into letterboxing.
In a way I’m glad you were insulted as you revealed to me some of your youthful movie experiences.We are about the same age and being that I grew up in the suburbs I can only say that I envy you your
trips to the Music Hall during the 60’s. I started going to the Music Hall in ‘70 and by that time the films were pretty much dreck. (Has anybody else alive seen Henessy or the Girl from Petrovka?)
With Cablevision in charge the Music Hall is a lost cause. The rock concerts in no way utilize the potential of the place and now they’re using the greatest theater in the world for basketball games!!
I wouldn’t call the Forum a bunker but I would say they are shoeboxes with a screen attached at the end. And I would still say Bruce G and Steve Stern deserve better. Long may they be part of New York’s cultural life!

HomegaMan
HomegaMan on June 30, 2004 at 8:32 am

Tell Him Petey!
Take that Vinny!
The Film Forum Rules!
Nuff Said!

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on June 30, 2004 at 8:16 am

Vincent, do not insult me by condescension, lazy or careless assumption, or pedantry. There is no need to GUESS at my age. I am 48 years of age, and saw my first films at age 5 in 1960 or 1961 in what you would call the “real” Ridgewood and RKO Madison Theaters (q.v. on this site) in Ridgewood, Queens, NY, NY, which had separate ticket prices for orchestra, loge and balcony. Among my first few films in those “real” theaters were “Morgan The Pirate” starring Steeve Reeves and “Swiss Family Robinson” in the summer of 1961 when I was 5 going on 6. Two or three years later I saw shows at Radio City Music Hall of “The Singing Nun”, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and “The Chalk Garden”. I saw “True Grit” and “Winning” at Radio City in the summer of 1969. I KNOW what a real movie palace is as opposed to what Jay Leno has referred to as “a concrete bunker at the end of the shopping mall”.

My hobby of urban archaelology is, in part, about finding and collecting images of these old, now mostly gone, movie palaces, in part, by “cross-pollinating” and cross-referencing this site with nycsubway.org, which is often the only place I can find images of these older theaters, such as Loew’s Valencia, RKO Bushwick, Loew’s Gates, the Colonial, the Dekalb / New Casino, the Decatur, the Empire, the Monroe, to name a few in Queens and Brooklyn.

I asked you what you meant by a “real” theater" so as to know EXACTLY and UNAMBIGUOUSLY what you meant, as I cannot read your mind.

I found Film Forum at 57 Watts Street to be adequate to the material I saw presented there. I consider 209 W Houston to be adequate also, even though I preferred the larger screens of 57 Watts. I did not experience, and therefore know nothing about, the screen sizes at the earlier 80 Wooster Street location. I was a frequent patron of Thalia Soho in the late ‘80’s and early 1990 and therefore remember the screen size at 15 Vandam (tiny !)

Have you expressed your wish to the management at Radio City ? If not, its probability of being fulfilled will most certainly remain ZERO. If you do, it will have some chance of being fulfilled, however small. Your results, as you know, will most probably be in proportion to your efforts. I wish you success, but, in the meantime, will take what I can get.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on June 30, 2004 at 3:49 am

Peter, If you have to ask me how is Film Forum not a “real” movie theater well then I guess you’ve never been to one. I guess you’re pretty young and grew up going to the plexes. Let’s just say that Film Forum is nothing but a collection of small screening rooms and they in no way do justice to Bruce’s programs and the quality prints he often shows.
This wish has as much chance of fufillment as my wish of seeing the Music Hall present a summer festival of film classics along with a complete stage show with the Rockettes, ballet company, symphony orchestra.