Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Cinevent Film Festival Turns 50

This is big news. So big it will be the only blog post I make this month.

In May of 2018, thousands of classic film fans will gather in Columbus, Ohio, for the 50th consecutive year to attend the Cinevent Classic Film Convention. The convention, first held in 1969, celebrated the history of movies with screenings of dozens of movies, including silent films with live piano accompaniment, and an enormous dealers room for the buying, selling, and trading of films, movie posters, and a wide variety of other film-related merchandise.

The mid-1960s saw the beginning of classic film conventions starting with Cinecon and then followed by regional Cinecons. In 1967 and 1968, Bob Cooper, who owned Cooper’s Film Rental, held regional conventions just an hour’s drive down I-70 from Columbus in Dayton, Ohio. When he decided to not hold another convention in 1969, two of the founders of Cinevent -- John Stingley and Steve Haynes -- asked Bob if he would mind if they took over the show. With help from other members of the Columbus Cinelodeon Club, they held their first convention (not yet named Cinevent) in May of 1969 at the Neil House in downtown Columbus.

Steve Haynes, co-founder of Cinevent.

Little did they know that this first convention was the beginning of what would become an annual tradition that would span decades. It started out with just a few dozen attendees. The films were not prearranged -- people brought along films they wanted to propose showing -- and the only dealer/vendor was Bob Cooper who sold items from the back of the screening room during breaks between films. Nevertheless, the show was a hit and later in the year the crew started talking about holding another show the following year.

For the second convention, the club decided to rent a print of Harry Langdon’s The Strong Man and advertised that it would be screened at the show. Today, if you search for “Harry Langdon Strong Man” on YouTube, you will find the film in its entirety. In 1970, however, this was a hard-to-find film and Langdon was a major draw for attendees to come see it. For the second year the convention moved to Hotel Fort Hayes, another downtown Columbus venue.

It was not until the third convention, held in 1971, that the name Cinevent was used. Due to a disagreement about what qualified as a “Regional Cinecon,” the Columbus group was asked not to use that name any more. A local attorney and jazz film collector John Baker, generally considered one of the three founders of Cinevent with Stingley and Haynes, came up with several suggestions and he and Stingley and Haynes proposed Cinevent as the name for the 1971 show. Forty-seven years later, the name remains.

Throughout the 1970s, the convention quickly grew, from thirty or so people at that first show in 1969 to hundreds at the shows in the late-1970s. At some point during this time, the first official dealer’s room was set up as well. With this growth came the need to move from hotel to hotel to accommodate the larger gathering. Among the hotels Cinevent called home was a Howard Johnson’s on 161 and a Marriott on the southeast side of Columbus.

Example of movie posters and lobby cards you can find in the vendor room.

The film schedule formulated by request of the attendees, selecting specific actors and film series at certain times of the day. While a minimalistic “program book” printed for 1974’s event does list ten specific screenings, there were also nine spots for features “To Be Announced.” By 1980, only a reference to “informal screenings” before the 7pm Friday program start remained as a vestige of those early schedule-free shows. Also beginning at this time was the scheduling of Cinevent over Memorial Day weekend – a weekend that attendees could almost always count on to remember the dates of next year’s show.

Another noteworthy development from the 1970s was the addition of Art Graves, an associate of John Baker’s, as one of the convention co-chairs. Baker was older than both Stingley and Haynes and, knowing he would be retiring sooner than the other chairs, he brought Graves in to the management of the convention to help fill his eventual departure.

Leonard Maltin, guest of honor at this year's show.
Every year there are at least a dozen movies screened that have never aired on television in decades, or been released commercially on VHS or DVD. This provides attendees an opportunity to enjoy something rare. As with the 1970 screening of The Strong Man, the staff of Cinevent are proud to continue that tradition of screening hard-to-find movies. In 1981, a screening of The Black Pirates with Douglas Fairbanks was planned, but the deal to rent the print fell through and it was not until 1989 that it was screened at Cinevent. There were other notable titles shown such as the 1935 version of She, which had been thought to be lost for many years until a print turned up several years before it was shown at the 1984 convention.

The 1990s were a boom era for Cinevent with an article in Ohio state magazine, contributing to a major attendance boost, as well as a recurring nostalgic boom in the trade industry. In the middle of that decade, Morris Everett’s annual Hollywood Poster Auction started running alongside Cinevent every year and in 1999 the convention began offering Sunday morning 35mm screenings at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Center for the Arts – with buses hired to transport hundreds of filmgoers. The first such screening was of 1924’s PETER PAN with Betty Bronson where longtime Cinevent accompanist Dr. Philip Carli and the Flower City Society Orchestra performed Carli’s newly written score for the film. While the Sunday Wexner Center screening program only lasted for several years, the Wexner Center continues to schedule a Wednesday evening classic film double-bill to help kick off the convention.

The turn of the millennium saw more change come to Cinevent. In 2002, Art Graves stepped down as co-chairman and as he was not officially replaced, Haynes and Stingley were responsible for running the show from there. Only several years later, in early 2007, John Stingley passed away, leaving Steve Haynes as the sole surviving founder of Cinevent (Baker had died as well, in 1998.) Throughout all this, the convention kept rolling along, year after year with dozens of film screenings and its traditional enormous dealers room, packed with goodies.

The Internet helped promote the event, along with articles in the monthly Classic Images publication. It seemed like nothing to top the momentum of Cinevent until 2015, which brought a seismic shift to the convention as preparations for its 47th occurrence were under way. In late January of that year, Steve Haynes fell outside his home and went in for surgery to repair his broken leg. It was there that he discovered he had advanced-stage cancer. His son, Michael, began working on the activities needed to prepare for the convention, as did others, but there were more obstacles to come. In mid-February, the convention’s longtime hotel suddenly closed. With just over three months until the show was to be held, Cinevent had no home. Dozens of calls were placed to area hotels, trying to find a fit for the show, but between hotels that were already booked or were too small or were too expensive, finding one began to look unlikely. The convention was too large to fit into any hotel. Finally, a deal was struck with the Renaissance Downtown hotel, bringing Cinevent back to downtown Columbus for the first time in almost 40 years.

Sadly, Steve Haynes did not live to see the ultimate success of Cinevent 47, despite its many obstacles, as he died in April of 2015. The convention that year saw many tributes to the last of its founders and the attendees were delighted when new chair Michael Haynes announced that Cinevent would continue.

Cinevent signed a multi-year deal to stay at the Renaissance in 2016 and 2017. In 2017 a special screening of the recently-rediscovered print of Laurel and Hardy’s The Battle of the Century occurred and Cinevent announced that the convention would return to the same location in May 2018 for its Golden Celebration.

Already announced as part of this year’s show are screenings of Dreamboat with Ginger Rogers, Sea Spoilers with John Wayne, The King of Wild Horses featuring Charley Chase in an atypical role, and Don’t Change Your Husband with Gloria Swanson. The John Wayne film, as a perfect example, is one of five or six action films he did for Universal Studios in the early-to-mid 1930s, before he became known as a cowboy star. If you thought you saw every John Wayne film ever made, guess again. In addition to the film program and the massive dealer’s room, New York Times best-selling author Scott Eyman will be attending, as well as film critic Leonard Maltin. There will also be a reception to celebrate the milestone year, a commemorative program guide, and other special events.

Information about attending this year’s show can be found on the Cinevent website (www.cinevent.com) and you can follow their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/cineventconvention) for updates.

STRONG PERSONAL NOTE: If you cannot afford the expensive luxury of flying to California and attending the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival this April, consider attending Cinevent. Fifty years is a milestone and worthy of attending. You will not regret it.

1 comment:

Pupuk untuk Sawi Putih said...

hope I can take a leave that week and fly there,

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