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New SU Press book traces CNY's movie connections

May 27, 2008

Cynthia J. Moritz
315 443 9039

Cynthia J. Moritz

A new book from Syracuse University Press, "Our Movie Houses: A History of Film and Cinematic Innovation in Central New York," offers a richly detailed account of the origins of American film in Central New York, the colorful history of neighborhood theaters in Syracuse, and the famous film personalities who got their start in the unlikely snow belt of New York state.

Written by Norman O. Keim, founder of the Syracuse University Film Studies Center, and David Marc, associate editor of Syracuse University Magazine, the book will be available in July at the Syracuse University Bookstore and through Syracuse University Press.

Conventional screen histories tend to concentrate on New York City and Hollywood in chronicling the evolution of American cinema. Notwithstanding the tremendous contribution of both cities, Syracuse and Central New York also played a strategic -- yet little-known -- role in early screen history. In 1889, in Rochester, George Eastman registered a patent for perforated celluloid film, a development that would telescope the international race to record motion by means of photography to the immediate future. In addition, the first public film projection occurred in Syracuse in 1896.

"What began as a look at old movie houses evolved into something more. Norm Keim's love for both the movies and Central New York led us to the buried story of the region's contributions to the development of cinema as a technology, industry and art," says Marc. "Moving picture film? Invented in Rochester. Biograph, the first great studio? Founded in Canastota. The first public screening of a movie? Presented in downtown Syracuse. The first synchronous sound process? Developed in Auburn.

"You know those silent-era serials in which the heroine is about to go over a waterfall on an ice floe? Chances are it was made in Ithaca, N.Y.," Marc says. "Who knew?"

"Norm Keim has captured all the excitement and innovation of those early days of local movie making, creating an entertaining and engrossing story," says Karen Colizzi-Noonan, president of the Theatre Historical Society. "At the same time, he has also created a factually accurate reference book which will be a `must-have' in every theater historian's library."

Keim was the founder and director of the Syracuse University Film Studies Center and adjunct professor of film studies at SU from 1973-85. He created Film Forum, a weekly presentation of art films in the University's Gifford Auditorium and the Regent Theatre from 1967-80.

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