Last Updated: 6/10/15


The Best of Secret Cinema Short Films

at Maas Building...outdoors!

Saturday, June 27, 2015
9:00 pm (after dark!)
Admission: $8.00

The Maas Building
Garden Entrance
1320 N. Fifth Street
Philadelphia, PA

On Saturday, June 27, The Secret Cinema will return to the beautiful Maas Building to present the unique program The Best of Secret Cinema Short Films.

Since we began in early 1992, all Secret Cinema screenings of feature films have included bonus short subjects, and some of our best presentations have been comprised entirely of short films: such oddities as campy educational reels, industrial films, TV commercials, and home movies. Most of these films -- literally hundreds of them -- have only been shown once or twice, despite frequent requests to repeat them. The Best of Secret Cinema Short Films will compile the most memorable of these celluloid treasures, most of which are impossible to view anywhere else. We try not to repeat ourselves too much, which is why our last "greatest hits" program was presented eight years ago

And, this visit to the Maas Building will differ from our event there in April, because it will be an outdoor screening, in their charming outdoor garden and patio. The event will take place rain or shine (in the event of showers the space's custom canopy enclosure will be erected!). The Maas Building was previously a brewery and a trolley repair shop. This beautifully restored 1859 brick and timber workshop today serves as a multipurpose art event and catering space.

There will be one complete show at 9:00 pm. Admission is $8.00.

Just a few highlights of The Best of Secret Cinema Short Films are:

The Stranger At Our Door (1940) - This dramatic two-reeler, made by a religious group to promote ethnic tolerance, shouldn't be funny -- but the outrageous overacting by Bowery Boys rejects and their non-specific European-born target make it surreally so.

How Quiet Helps at School (1953) - The answer should be obvious, but the level of quiet expected by the uptight narrator of this classic '50s social guidance film probably had kids holding their breath in class.

Skateboarding To Safety (1976) - One of the most beloved films ever shown by Secret Cinema is this 1976 look at thrills and spills of young daredevils as they maneuver skinny wheeled boards through the streets of Southern California -- enhanced in this print by a dubbed Swedish soundtrack.

Big Mouth Goes to the Dentist (1984) - A frightening, McDonaldland-esque giant mouth attempts to teach kids not to be afraid of the dentist.

Pro Kleen commercial (1950s) - A mind-numbingly crass eight minute TV commercial in which an unappealing pitchman with a thick Baltimore accent extols the wonders of a new spot cleaner.

The Story of Bubblegum (1952) - This beautiful Kodachrome film sets out to answer the question, "Can bubblegum be good food?" Made at the old Fleer bubblegum plant in Olney, showing its giant vats of pink rubber, plant cafeteria and garden, and their amazing R&D department. Quite possibly the greatest film ever made, short or long.

Secret Cinema Update!

I want to apologize for not sending this (or any) email message earlier, and similarly for not updating our website since last August. Probably many of you assumed Secret Cinema had finally gone out of business. Not so. Rather, we had an unexpected, and unwanted "vacation" from our usual activities.

I -- meaning me, Jay Schwartz (I'll drop the usual, royal "we" for now) -- had no choice but to suspend all Secret Cinema duties and events when I was involved in an 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.

Three previously announced Secret Cinema events were unfortunately cancelled, although the Chestnut Hill Film Group did manage to provide a digital screening of our planned film presentation of The Unholy Three, with a Don Kinnier musical accompaniment that I regret missing. Meanwhile, I rested and rehabilitated at home, and began physical therapy treatment.

My accident was serious, but could have been much worse, and the good news is that I've made a lot of progress, and expect to be projecting film this month (again, for the Chestnut Hill Film Group; you'll receive email details soon). I'm not walking perfectly yet, and likely will not for a while, but I'm getting around.

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, but aside from this month's CHFG event, there is currently nothing booked. So, it will likely take another month or two, at least, to make any events happen.

There are a few screenings I have in mind already, but it is not getting easier to do Secret Cinema. Losing our flagship venue at Moore College of Art a few years ago cost us a lot of momentum, and some other venue partners have cut back their programming recently -- leaving less room on their calendars for Secret Cinema. If you've been following our activities for a while, you've probably noticed that even before my accident, there had been less events than we used to manage to present in past years. That means less funding from ticket sales, yet the ongoing overhead of maintaining our large, ever-growing private film archive (rent, climate control) only gets more expensive. Meanwhile, showing films that can't be seen anywhere else gets harder and harder.

On the other hand, showing films like almost nowhere else became easier. Practically the whole world has turned to digital presentation nearly overnight, to my great disappointment -- and to my continued concerns about keeping the aging Secret Cinema projection gear in repair. Rest assured I plan to keep showing film, and only film, until I finally do stop Secret Cinema, and I hope that isn't anytime soon.

Don't worry, this isn't leading to a Kickstarter campaign where I ask you to pay for my hobby/enterprise. That doesn't make any sense to me. But if any of you have leads on grants we can get, or suitable new Secret Cinema venues, do please get in touch! (Note that 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). Oh, and if someone can volunteer to make a new and improved website design for us, they'll earn lots of free tickets.

I would also ask all of you to help spread the word of our activities. The press we used to rely on to publicize our events has had a hard time lately also, and I fear that younger generations that might be interested in Secret Cinema screenings are less likely than ever to learn about them (or worse, to confuse us with various other "Secret Cinema"s that adopted the name long after we established it in 1992).

Here are just a few Secret Cinema things to look forward to in 2015: A continuation of the Thomas Jefferson-themed film showings for the APS Museum; 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. We need to continue doing research to create a full presentation about one fascinating short film that vividly captures long-lost mid-century Center City nightlife. 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. We have a lot of work to do -- stay tuned!

Secret Cinema will be back soon, and I'd like to thank my doctors, nurses and therapists for making that possible. I'd especially like to thank my number-one caregiver, which is my wife Silvia (whom you may know as the primary Secret Cinema box office staffer!). She selflessly waited on me hand and foot throughout my non-weight-bearing status.

And, I thank all of you for your amazing support through the years.

See you soon!

Jay Schwartz
The Secret Cinema


  • Wednesday, July 22 @ American Philosophical Society Museum: Program to be announced.
  • Friday, July 31 @ William Way Center: AIDS Law Project Annual Movie Party with HOT RODS TO HELL, guest film historians, food & drink!
  • Friday, September 11 @ Eastern State Penitentiary: Program to be announced.

    If you'd like to subscribe to announcements of upcoming Secret Cinema events, then e-mail us by clicking HERE. Please specify in your message where you are located.

    Click HERE to learn the history of Secret Cinema.

    Click HERE to read about recent Secret Cinema events.


    Channel 29 news piece on Secret Cinema from 1999!

    Joey Ramone, R.I.P.

    Secret Cinema 1999 Annual Report

    Secret Cinema 1998 Annual Report

    Secret Cinema 1997 Annual Report

    Information about the 1998 Secret Cinema "Class Trip" to the Syracuse Cinefest

    Last Updated: 6/10/15
    WebMasters: Rodney Linderman & Jay Schwartz
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