Secret Cinema Returning Following Founder’s Bike Accident

Secret Cinema, Philly’s gem of an underground screening series dedicated to showing rare and classic films in 16mm on a giant screen—has been on hiatus since last fall. Founder Jay Schwartz was forced to take a break following a bike accident in early-September. “I was riding my bicycle home, when I was hit by a truck, resulting in a badly broken leg and some other broken bones. I was in the hospital for a week, then in a rehabilitation hospital for another two weeks, and could not put any weight on my leg for over two months,” he explained in a lengthy email sent out this morning.

Understandably he’s been off the radar since then, but he’s gearing up to bring back the festival starting this month. More from his email:

Initially I only told those who needed to know about my accident. And then, I continued to put off writing this email until now, for no particularly good reason. The Secret Cinema audience has been very loyal over the years (and I’m soon to start my 24th year doing this!). I regret not keeping you all posted on this sooner, but now you have the facts. I plan to get things going again as soon as possible … there is currently nothing booked. So, it will likely take another month or two, at least, to make any events happen.

Besides the accident, however, it’s continued to get harder and harder to keep Secret Cinema afloat. Venues are cutting back programming, meaning there are fewer places in the city to host Secret Cinema events. “That means less funding from ticket sales, yet the ongoing overhead of maintaining our large, ever-growing private film archive only gets more expensive,” he says. “Meanwhile, showing films that can’t be seen anywhere else gets harder and harder. Practically the whole world has turned to digital presentation nearly overnight, to my great disappointment.”

Schwartz vows to continue showing his 16mm films, though, without pandering for funding on crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter. He is putting out word for volunteers and tips on venues that can house Secret Cinema screenings (“suitable venues should have seating for at least 50 people, the ability to be made completely dark, and hopefully not too low of a ceiling”).

While no dates for 2015 have been planned, Schwartz offers some hints at what he hopes to show this year: “A continuation of the Thomas Jefferson-themed film showings for the American Philosophical Society; what will probably be the most exciting of our many screenings at Eastern State Penitentiary; and yet more programs built around rarely seen cinematic odds and ends made in Philadelphia long ago. And, we anticipate garnering actual headlines when we announce our recent discovery of some historically significant nitrate film reels that we donated to the Library of Congress for preservation.”

To keep track of what’s happening with Secret Cinema, or to reach out to Schwartz with venue ideas and volunteering information, go here.