May 2008 Issue
Movie fans and memorabilia collectors convene in Columbus for Cinevent.
On a snowy Christmas morning in the late 1950s, a child unwrapped an 8-millimeter film projector. It was a present that would quickly set his passions in motion.
Thanks to his parents’ generosity, Steve Haynes of Columbus was soon viewing old movies on a small screen in his grandmother’s living room. And as the images of Mary Pickford, Cary Grant and Laurel and Hardy came to life, Haynes’ lifelong love affair with classic Hollywood films began.
As Haynes’ collection of old motion pictures grew, he yearned to share his hobby with other like-minded people. It happened in 1968, when the then-21-year-old and two fellow film buffs got together with a group of 30 friends on an afternoon in early May to screen some of their favorite movies. They called the gathering Cinevent.
“We’d sit around and say, ‘What did you bring? Yeah, I’d like to see that,’ ” recalls Haynes. “Then we’d run that film.”
What started out as three dozen movie hounds staring bleary-eyed at a small projection screen at the snug Neil House hotel in downtown Columbus has evolved into a major production: Cinevent is now a four-day convention held every Memorial Day weekend that attracts film lovers and collectors of cinema-related memorabilia. This year, the 40th consecutive event is expected to draw 800 people from across the U.S. to the Ramada Plaza Hotel and Conference Center in Columbus.
Organizers plan to screen more than 40 films, including animated and live-action comedy shorts covering four decades of classic filmmaking. They range from “Three Word Brand,” a 1921 western featuring William S. Hart, to “The Thief,” a crime drama starring Ray Milland that debuted in 1952.
Although the movie mix includes something for everyone, Cinevent is more than a film extravaganza. It’s also a collector’s show, with dozens of dealers offering movie memorabilia painstakingly arranged on more than 150 tables. Attendees can browse through autographed images of Hollywood starlets of yesteryear, flip through lobby cards touting new releases from Paramount Pictures and marvel at generations of ways to record and preserve old film –– from videotape to laser disc to DVD.
“Cinevent is one of the largest
assemblages of movie collectibles held annually in the country in terms of things to look at and buy,” says Haynes, 61, recently retired from his day job as a computer programmer. “We recommend allowing more than just an hour or two in the dealers’ room.”
The most valuable collectibles often are sold at the annual auction of vintage movie posters, which span 1910 to 1980. The live auction takes place on May 24, with bids taken in person, by phone, fax and e-mail, and via Internet on eBay Live. The various bidding methods expand the sale to a worldwide audience, says Morris Everett Jr., owner of The Last Moving Picture Co. in Kirtland, the firm that’s been conducting the Cinevent auction for 16 years.
“A lot of people don’t realize that more movie posters were made in the state of Ohio than anywhere else in the ’20s and ’30s,” Everett says. “There were eight different lithography companies in Cincinnati and Cleveland that made all these movie posters.” They come to Everett from all corners of the globe and are mostly sold on consignment. One of this year’s highlights is a batch of film inserts (measuring 14 by 36 inches) and half sheets (22 by 28 inches), recently discovered beneath the floorboards of an old house in Washington. The posters represent films of the 1920s, and spotlight stars such as Clara Bow and Lon Chaney Sr.
“I have no idea what they’ll bring in,” Everett says of the vibrantly colored advertisements that originally sold for a few pennies each. He does, however, know what an original poster from the 1937 animation classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” should fetch: between $15,000 and $20,000.
Everett expects prices at the Cinevent auction to range from $100 to $25,000, with the most popular items being in the horror and science fiction genre.
For Haynes, the success of Cinevent is a bittersweet one, for he leads the organizing committee alone after the deaths of his co-founding pals, John Baker and John Stingley. Haynes works with a small team to select films that aren’t easily accessible on the
Internet, at the library or on classic-movie cable stations.
“We don’t show those at the film convention because they’re so easy to see,” says Haynes, who steers clear of easily recognizable stars such as Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges. “We try to show less-popular actors and films, although if we can find a lesser-known film with a name actor, we try to show that, too.”
The Cinevent committee selects 16-millimeter prints and projects them onto a 10-foot-wide screen. Silent films are accompanied by pianists Philip Carli of Rochester, New York, and
David Drazin of Evanston, Illinois, both renowned in their field.
Other films on tap this year include “Orchids and Ermine,” a romantic comedy featuring a 6-year-old Mickey Rooney; “No Man’s Law,” a western starring Oliver Hardy as a villain; “Cockeyed Cavaliers,” a musical comedy starring the team of Wheeler and Woolsey and Thelma Todd (the 1930s version of Marilyn Monroe); “Kid Millions,” a black-and-white musical that segues into Technicolor and stars
Eddie Cantor; and “The Web,” a Vincent Price thriller.
Many of Cinevent’s participants have been coming for decades, and the closely knit group of longtime
attendees enjoys each other’s company as much as watching a Buster Keaton slapstick stunt.
“Cinevent is an unusual film convention in that it has a very low-key, family vibe,” says Scott Eyman of Palm Beach, Florida, who’s been attending for decades. “It’s practically a family picnic.”
Eyman has authored a series of books on classic Hollywood movie stars, including the soon-to-be released authorized biography of producer-director Cecil B. DeMille. He likes to scan the dealers’ tables in search of still photos for them. “It’s not about the money that the posters are worth,” he explains. “It’s about fellowship.”
Jay Rubin travels annually to Cinevent from his home in Indiana, Pennsylvania, the hometown of the late film star Jimmy Stewart. Rubin is one of the foremost collectors of Jimmy Stewart memorabilia in the country, having had a hand in creating the actor’s museum in that city.
He began attending Cinevent with his father, Sam Rubin, founder of Classic Film Collector magazine.
“We love the actors, the stories, the cinematography, all of it,” Jay Rubin says. “The guys and gals in Columbus have been putting on a class show for many years. We who attend as collectors or film enthusiasts hope that they all stay well and will continue for many years to come.”