Sunday, May 3, 2009

Wild Dreams

The times are ripe for a nostalgia revival, but that will not happen from TCM, DVD releases or free downloads. A new fad needs a new venue. Could it be free movies in coffee houses? Cafes need the stimulus, family’s long for a new pastime and the films await rediscovery. Stir well and Cafe Roxy could sweep the country.

The magic key is the audience. There is no substitute for shared laughter or for shared concern when a hero goes over a cliff. Most older films have not been enjoyed by live audiences in years. I am most excited about igniting interest in these kinds of films:

SERIALS. They still work! We’ll see, anyway. Will fans return each week to see how the hero escapes his doom? Serials must be seen one chapter a week like they were intended. If the car goes off a cliff at the end of a chapter, we know the hero either jumps out just in time or crashes with the car but is not hurt. If you are watching a DVD you may peak ahead to see what happens, but if you can’t see the cliffhanger resolution until same time, same place, next week, then the doubt will linger. Maybe he did die.

SILENT COMEDIES. Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, the Our Gang kids and most especially Buster Keaton only come alive with an audience. Laughter is contagious. Young children get it and can become fans for life. Watching TCM or your DVD collection is not the same.

THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES. This comedy series rocketed to #1 just a few weeks into its run, because the premise, actors and plots were extremely funny. Still are. The 274 episodes have been syndicated on TV ever since. The 50 plus public domain episodes are out on numerous DVD sets and have been watched to death by fans, but generations have yet to discover them. Virtually no one has seen the show with an audience. Are the Hillbillies funny, funnier or funniest in public? The same audience factor may freshen enjoyment of 1950s TV shows like Dragnet, Ozzie and Harriet, One Step Beyond and beyond that.

MUSICAL SOUNDIES. I like them. They are short. Free inclusions. And Spike Jones!

B-WESTERNS. I enjoy Roy Rogers and most of the western stars. I got back into them when I discovered the Encore Western Channel about 4 years ago when they were showing a B-western every day. Westerns are not as certain to catch on, but if serials become popular first, crowds may turn out to see a chapter of Gene Autry’s “The Phantom Empire,” then hang around to see what Roy, Gene, Hoot, Ken and the Three Mesquiteers are up to.

If you have a suitable venue for showing films while your patrons eat and drink, just try it. Wild success could happen. Wilder dreams could come true.

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