Updated: Jun 3
It’s Memorial Day 2020, and I am having the strange experience of being at home after a restful weekend of doing very little besides yard work, cooking out, and spending time with family. Even without the presence of Covid-19, this would be a fairly normal description for most people’s activities on this unofficial beginning-of-summer long weekend.
But I’m not “fairly normal” and never have been. I’m a life-long movie fan, and since 1981, save for the two years of 1985 and ’86, when I was in upstate New York in graduate school, I’ve been attending CINEVENT, our film convention here in Columbus, Ohio. That’s 33 years in a row of spending four 12+ hour days in a hotel with hundreds of other like-minded fanatics, combing through tables of memorabilia and collectibles, watching 16mm prints of obscure vintage features and shorts of all kinds, and meeting and talking with people from all over the country, even a few from overseas, who share this passion.
Most important, that last part. And I’ve never realized it more than this year.
For the last 20 years or so I have been part of the group of dedicated people who put this show on, and so am deeply involved with much that CINEVENT entails. We begin planning the next one within weeks of its conclusion, once we all catch our breath. Besides more formal meetings, many of us get together almost every Sunday for dinner and a movie in one of our individual basement home theatres.
Each of us have built up large personal libraries of beloved classics, going through the changes of media that this hobby has seen over the years. I myself have had 16mm films, laser discs, and now DVD’s and Blu Rays. I’ve lived, loved, and suffered through the days of trying to find the money to afford that rare Technicolor print of a cherished cartoon, finding a beloved film in my collection had been scratched or faded, getting my first digital projector and being amazed that I could have such a big clear picture in my very own house, and now being at the point where I can see a film at home in 3D and surround sound that is every bit as good as going to a multiplex.
In fact, I almost never go to first-run movies anymore. I’m more a fan of vintage than of current fare, and I’m now at the point of having nearly every film I ever dreamed of in my collection. I really doubt I’ll live long enough to see all of them again. What more could I want?
Fellowship of course. I very much enjoy watching movies by myself in my basement most weekends, but it is a highlight of the week to meet with my friends and chat, laugh, and sure, occasionally argue about these little pieces of art we all are so mad about. That has been taken from us these last 3 months.
And of course, for the first time in what seems like ever, so has CINEVENT. This was going to be our “last” one, in the sense that one of our founders’ son, Michael Haynes, who is now the main person behind it, is getting ready to hand over the reins to Samantha Glasser, and it will “morph” into the COLUMBUS MOVING PICTURE SHOW. And with that milestone I’ve been thinking that maybe I’m ready to just let this all go.
Let me be honest, it is a lot of work and expense to put one of these things on. I’m getting older, and part of me has felt that I’ll be glad to step back from all the hubbub. I have all that I need at home in my basement after all.
But I know now that’s just not true. If you are wondering why bother in the 2020s to go to the trouble of traveling, getting a hotel room, and taking the time out of what is often a beautiful outdoor holiday just to “see some old movies”, when after all you have TCM, Netflix, The Criterion Channel, and that sparkling new 4K 70 inch TV set at home, I’ll tell you:
The People. For years we’ve billed ourselves as “the Midwest’s Friendliest Film Show”, and it’s true. Yes, you can buy anything you want online, and you can see some obscure silent film on YouTube. But movies were intended to be seen on a big screen, with a crowd. Comedies are funnier when people around you are laughing. Buying a vintage poster is better when you can actually see the object in front of you. And chatting and even arguing about movies is better in person than on some forum on the internet. If I ever had any doubt about that, the coronavirus has wiped that out of me.
I now can hardly wait for our next show in 2021. I plan on helping to make that happen in any way I can. I sure hope to see a lot of you then.