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On the night of Thursday, October 20th, over 120 excited people packed into The Frida for the fourth event hosted by See It On 16mm: a screening of George Romero’s groundbreaking and iconic zombie film Night of the Living Dead. Moviegoers – many of whom donned shirts with designs related to the film or other Romero films – were treated to a number of treats before the movie such as a DJ set from RENDEZVOUS!, a Los Angeles based DJ collective, who let loose all of their spooky jams tailored for the tone of the event. Attendees also found a merchandise table stocked to the brim with merch such as DVDs, vinyl records, and tote bags for Severin Films, a film production and distribution company known for rescuing and releasing all films controversial and provocative. As they waited in line for concessions, patrons admired the elaborate Halloween decorations strung all around The Frida’s lobby, which were arranged for this year’s annual Camp Frida movie marathon.
Michael Aguirre, founder and operator of See It On 16mm, graced us with his warm and wonderful presence once again, after having recently returned to The Frida for a secret 16mm movie event, during which a great-looking print of Stuart Rosenberg’s The Amityville Horror was shown. Not only was he nearing the end of his Night of the Living Dead Tour, in which The Frida was the second to last stop, he had just come off the heels of the Monsters, Monsters, Monsters B-movie triple feature that brought him up and down California (and back to The Frida). It’s safe to say that Michael has had a busy month, as the screenings continue to populate and span across the state as more Californians are supporting the conservation and presentation of this once more widespread format.
Once the crowd settled, Michael and the team behind RENDEZVOUS! introduced the film by thanking the crowd for yet again showing up in droves to support the preservation and distribution of these 16mm prints, which he says would not be possible without the support of the community members. Once the lights dimmed and the lamp of the projector bulb illuminated the screen, audience members were treated to a trailer pre-show that included B-movie horror trailers from two directors considered masters in the genre, including Roger Corman’s Attack of the Crab Monsters as well as Ed Wood’s Bride of the Monster and Plan 9 from Outer Space. Finally, the real show began as the extremely well-preserved print began to spin on its reels, providing the audience with both crisp visuals and audio that immersed them in the same experience had by moviegoers who saw the film in the late ’60s.
Watching the film and being able to hear the consistent hum of the film as it runs through the loops and gears of the projector before passing through a beam of light (creating the technical basis of what we consider cinema) is one of the most enhancing features that the era of digital projection has robbed us of. Michael follows in the footsteps of a number of organizations and initiatives that have realized the importance of preserving our media, their objectives rooted sometimes in the nostalgic, sometimes in the socio-cultural, and other times even in the ecological. One thing that Michael understands about these events in his mission to distribute and screen the collected and preserved prints is the ultimate fact of the experience that the cinema was devised as and continues to be. He might not put it in the same words, as he comes across to all as a very humble individual who follows this passion of his almost for the heck of it.
Talking again to Michael about the event, he expressed his gratitude at the continued success of the events and support he feels from the community, as well as excitement for several upcoming events and screenings the organization will be hosting. Michael and See It On 16mm will return to The Frida twice in November, first hosting a 16mm double feature of Christian Nyby’s The Thing from Another World and Gordon Douglas’s Them! on November 3rd. He’ll then return on November 11th with another long-anticipated collaboration with Armando of Trash-Mex to show yet another film by Ruben Galindo Jr., Cementerio Del Terror [Cemetery of Terror]. This event will also see the return of La Cosecha Internacional, who will provide a Mexican music DJ set before the show. Other upcoming events include a secret Sylvester Stallone double feature as well as a tour with Frank Sinatra’s personal 16mm copy print of Frank Capra’s Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life (which happens to be one of Michael’s favorite films), so be sure to follow @see_it_on_16mm on Instagram to stay up to date for upcoming screenings.