There is a growing interest in exhibiting the alliances the silent cinema had with variety. Those alliances were undoubtedly there (so many early cinema shows were really variety programmes interspersed with films, or else the other way around), but what is novel is expounding the thesis through live entertainment. We have had the Crazy Cinématographe shows in Luxembourg, and in London there is The Smoking Cabinet.
This intriguing combination of early cinema screenings, cabaret and panel discussions was launched last year. A year on, the same concept returns to the Curzon Soho, 12-14 December. Billed as a ‘festival of early cabaret and burlesque cinema, 1894-1933’, the programme is suitably eclectic and exotic:
Opening Night The Smoking Cabinet Vs. Midnight Movies: Piccadilly (1929)
For this year’s opening night The Smoking Cabinet have teamed up with Midnight Movies to offer something a little different; live performance and music in the bar from 8:30pm followed by a special screening of E.A. Dupont’s Piccadilly (1929) featuring Anna May Wong.
Fri 12th Dec Bar performances and live music from 8:30pm, screening 11.30pm
Tickets £8 advance / £12 on door
On with the Dance!
A joyous evening of dance and showgirl themed films, featuring delights from Divine and Charles, Fatima and Carmencita, The Whirl of the Charleston (1927) and chorus girls galore.
+ Discussion Boom or Bust?
1894-1933 tracks the emergence of an entirely new form of entertainment in the shape of the moving image and cinema. We look at how the film absorbed more established forms of entertainment of the time from vaudeville to cabaret, burlesque and the musicals. We’ll also look at the cyclical nature of trends, asking why certain forms have boomed at specific times and bust at others. We’ll also ask if the death bell tolls for the current fascination with burlesque?
Sat 13th Dec 6:00pm
Sandow the Muscle Man and the Spirit of Coney Island
Roll up, roll up to witness boxing cats, the king of coins, and Edwin S Porter’s classic Coney Island at Night (1905), screening in a celebration of the extraordinary amusement empire that astonished, delighted and shocked a nation. There’s a rare opportunity to see Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton’s 1917 romp Coney Island and to revel in the most magnificent spectacle of the world’s mad hunt for pleasure!
We’ll provide a Coney Island experience in the bar as we tip our sailor hats to the seaside fun and amusements of yesteryear and offer a free tipple to all guests!
+ Special guest speaker on the history and significance of New York’s decadent palace of pleasure.
Sun 14th Dec 4:00pm
Closing Night: That’s all folks!
Join us for our last screening, live music, cakes and dancing as we wind down with an eclectic variety finale including Bob’s Electric Theatre (1909), Gus Elen: It’s a Great Big Shame and La Boite a malice (1903).
Sun 14th Dec 6:00pm
There’s more information, including how to book, on The Smoking Cabinet website. Attendees are also encouraged to ‘dress to impress’, which – let’s face it – so few silent film audiences ever do these days. All this, and lessons in dancing the Charleston as well.