“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” with Fess Parker and Buster Keaton. A musical send-up of “Bride of Frankenstein” from “The Danny Kaye Show.” Rare 16 mm prints of Hollywood stars at home. And programming with the likes of Douglas Fairbanks, Boris Karloff, Constance Cummings and Ray Harryhausen.
The Western New York Movie Expo isn’t your usual film festival – and that’s the point.
A celebration of silent film, classic movies, vintage television and movie memorabilia, the inaugural expo will have a four-day run at the Adam’s Mark Hotel starting Thursday. Two screening rooms will run a steady stream of programming including pre-code comedies, sci-fi tributes, restored animation, rare comedies, early talkies and even silent movies with live musical accompaniment.
“It’s a film festival for anyone – college kids studying cinema, or people who enjoy watching with a live audience. Seeing movies with an audience is always more fun,” said Sanborn resident Alex Bartosh, a 41-year veteran of film and memorabilia shows, who has organized the show.
The movie expo’s origins began when Syracuse Cinefest, a classic movie festival, ended its 35-year run in 2015. Bartosh attended Cinefest every year as either a fan or dealer so when the opportunity arose to purchase equipment used at the festival and carry it on in some manner, he took the chance.
“There was no one to pick up a baton and I couldn’t run it from 125 miles away – that’s how it ended up here,” said Bartosh, a Chicago native who has lived in the area for 25 years. “With other area film enthusiasts, we decided to go ahead and re-establish a new show with a new identity.”
Bartosh explained the Buffalo festival is two events: a movie festival and a large emporium of original movie memorabilia. “It’s like an antique show for movie collectors,” he said, adding dealers will be coming to Buffalo from across the country including Chicago and Philadelphia.
Organizers have expanded programming into the 1950s and ’60s by adding episodes of vintage television shows like “Make Room for Daddy” and “My Little Margie.”
While Bartosh knows the festival will draw people who have attended events like Cinefest as well as local buffs, he hopes it also will attract a younger generation of film fans.
“We like getting together, talking about what we collect and watch the movies and enjoy,” Bartosh said. “Many of dealers I’ve known for 30-plus years. As we’re getting up in age, we’re hoping to bring in young film students from the colleges to keep it going.”
While the Syracuse festival was presented by the Syracuse Cinephile Society, there is no such film society in this area so Bartosh is funding the event in the hopes it will become self-sustaining.
“I had just enough to kick start it. Providence put me in a position to do it: I have the movies, the equipment and a lot of friends who know this stuff [the equipment, projectors],” Bartosh said. “If we lose money, we lose money. But if I make some money I’ll put it in next year’s show and hopefully keep it going. I’m just an antiques show promoter who is concentrating on selling old-time movie fun for friends. It’s something we are hoping to build on.”
There are more than 60 shorts, feature films and vintage TV episodes being presented. Here are just five highlights, but there’s plenty more to discover. Visit the event’s Facebook page for the full schedule. Times are subject to change.
Barrymore, Karloff and Chaney
Fans of three of the biggest names in classic films should gather Friday morning. At 10:15 a.m., Lionel Barrymore and Boris Karloff star in the 1926 silent thriller “The Bells.” It will be presented with live music by Jeff Rapsis. (Karloff’s work has multiple screenings, so check out the full schedule.) At 12:50 p.m., it’s the not-to-miss screening of one of the greatest of the Lon Chaney-Tod Browning collaborations, “The Unknown.” Chaney, the “Man of 1,000 Faces” again transformed himself, this time playing the “Armless Wonder” in a circus. Look for a young starlet named Joan Crawford.
‘The Lost Patrol’
You may have seen this 1934 John Ford World War I film before, but not this version. This is a rare original print from the estate of the film’s executive producer Merian C. Cooper, not the edited R.K.O. print. Karloff, Victor McLaglen and Wallace Ford star. It’s shown at 8:35 p.m. Friday.
A celebration of Serling
The Rod Serling Archive at the Bundy Museum of History and Art in Binghamton is sending archivist Michael Pipher to give the 90-minute presentation “In the Zone with Rod Serling” at 8:35 p.m. Saturday.
The works of two Buffalo natives will be in the spotlight. Denise Costa will screen her award-winning documentary about child stars, “Growing Up with Hollywood,” at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Gerald Hartke will give a presentation on his Buffalo-made film “Nicholas of Myra: The Story of Saint Nicholas,” at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Rare Kodascope prints
Kodascope was the name of the first 16 mm projector from Eastman Kodak Company in 1923. The expo will show rare prints of shorts and features of comedies from Laurel and Hardy, Mack Sennett and Charley Chase. The Sennett programming is at 6:30 p.m. Friday; later in the evening, Chase will be featured at midnight. The Laurel and Hardy rarities that showcase Kodascope and non-Kodascope films can be seen at 10 p.m. Saturday. (Other Laurel and Hardy programming also is planned.)