Movies 'Round Midnight
Movies 'Round Midnight began its experimental film series at Los Angeles' Cinema Theatre on Columbus Day 1963. The inagural program notes declared: 'Oct. 12, 471 Years ago Columbus Discovered America. Today You Discover the New American Cinema.'The Cinema Theatre was located at 1122 North Western Avenue and was part of a chain of soft-core theaters owned by Louis K. Sher. The theater was managed by Sher's 24 year old nephew Mike Getz. In the early 1960s Getz met a young programmer named John Fles who had been steadily building a following through screenings hosted at the Unicorn Book Shop and local coffee houses. Fles described their meeting and professional collaboration as 'love at first sight.' Together the two men developed Movies 'Round Midnight, a weekly late night film series of experimental, art, pulp and underground cinema and serials. Using the mailing lists built through Fles' informal and transitory programs the men worked to fill the Cinema Theater's aproximately 500 seat capacity. Films screened exclusively on 16 mm and avant-garde prints were acquired from Canyon Cinema and the Filmmaker's Co-op. The first evening's triple feature paired Jack Smith's FLAMING CREATURES, Stan Brakhage's DOG STAR MAN PART 1 and Gregory Markopoulos' TWICE A MAN... Membership to the series cost 25 cents while adult admission was $1.50Fles' curatorial project was informed by Soviet theories regarding the powers of editing and juxtaposition and programs often combined European art cinema, Hollywood classics, and the avant-garde. Experimental filmmaker and Los Angeles native Peter Mays fondly recalls that Fles was 'our Jonas (Mekas).' The program filled the void left by Raymond Rohauer's Coronet Theatre and offered Angeleno audiences the opportunity to see the rare cinema that screened in New York's underground theaters. These screenings were documented in reviews in The Los Angeles Free Press by Gene Youngblood and The Los Angeles Times by Kevin Thomas. Fles screened works by experimental filmmakers including Kenneth Anger, Maya Deren, Ron Rice, Stan Vanderbeek and Curtis Harrington. In 1964 the theater famously showed Warhol's SLEEP, a screening rumored to have erupted into chaotic frustration. Experimental filmmaker Thom Andersen was in attendance and the screening was his introduction to the films of Andy Warhol. During the mid-1960s Fles also progressively experimented with performances and non-cinematic screenings including a 1965 program intended to simulate the experience of being on LSD using liquid, lights and images. Fles departed from the theater later that year, leaving programming to Getz. Getz continued to program the series at the Cinema Theater until 1967 when he renamed it Underground Cinema 12.
Cinema Theatre, 1122 North Western Avenue