Last Updated: 3/1/24


Since 1992, the Secret Cinema has been the Philadelphia area’s premiere floating repertory cinema series, bringing hundreds of unique programs to nightclubs, bars, coffee houses, museums, open fields, colleges, art galleries, bookstores, and sometimes even theaters and film festivals. Drawing on its own large private film archive (as well as other collections), the Secret Cinema attempts to explore the uncharted territory and the genres that fall between the cracks, with programs devoted to educational and industrial films, cult and exploitation features, cartoons, rare television, local history, home movies, erotic films, politically incorrect material, and the odd Hollywood classic. As long as it exists on real celluloid, that is—Secret Cinema screenings never use video/digital projection. While mainly based in Philadelphia, the Secret Cinema has also brought programming to other cities and countries.

Lost Television 2024 Edition

at Rotunda

Thursday, March 14, 2024
8:00 pm
Admission: FREE

The Rotunda
4014 Walnut Street

The Secret Cinema will return to the Rotunda with an all-new edition of an occasional series called Lost Television. The program, to be presented on Thursday, March 14, consists of rare and forgotten shows from the early era of television, which mainly survive thanks to now-aging 16mm film prints.

The 16mm film format was crucial to early television broadcasters in the days before videotape was perfected. Filmed recordings of live television, called kinescopes, were made using special equipment. Other programs were originally shot on film -- this was standard procedure for the popular 1950s TV genre of anthology dramas, short stories made with changing casts. And for many years 16mm prints were shipped to local stations as a convenient distribution medium for both programs and commercials. The Secret Cinema archive includes many original prints with examples of all of these uses, and these will be showcased in Lost Television 2024 Edition.

There will be one complete show at 8:00 pm. Admission is free.

This screening is part of the Rotunda's ongoing "Bright Bulb Screening Series," which offers free movies on the second Thursday of every month, throughout the year.

Included in Lost Television 2024 Edition will be:

Sherlock Holmes: "The Case of the Perfect Husband" (1954) - Arthur Conan Doyle's beloved character has had a long screen history. Sherlock Holmes was the very first detective to be depicted on film (in 1903), and countless actors have portrayed the clever crime-solver ever since. This interesting British import appears to be Holmes' first televised portrayal, as played by Ronald Howard (son of movie great Leslie Howard).

The Life of Riley (1949) - Chester A. Riley was a bumbling aircraft factory worker who got himself into amusing situations each week. William Bendix introduced the character on radio in 1941, and successfully resumed the role on NBC television for five years, starting in 1958. But in between those two versions was this earlier TV iteration, on the Dumont network -- and because Bendix was unavailable at the time, the lead role went to a pre-Honeymooners Jackie Gleason, in his first series. Despite frequent use of the tag line, "What a revoltin' development this is!", the show did not catch on, and this edition of Riley lasted but one season (a Bendix-starring Life of Riley movie was released the same year, and two live television test episodes, with different actors playing Riley, aired in 1948).

Telephone Time: "The Stepmother" (1956) - This anthology drama series (sponsored by Bell Telephone) was based on short stories from host John Nesbitt, who had earlier served a similar role in MGM's long-running series of theatrical shorts, John Nesbitt's Passing Parade. This episode, about a young Abraham Lincoln's begrudging acceptance of a new family member, was directed by Hollywood veteran Erle C. Kenton (Island of Lost Souls, House of Frankenstein).

New Horizons (1959) - "We're here to make your scripts get produced better, despite budget limitations." This ultra-rare slice of lost television could also have fit in last month's Rotunda program Top Secret: Films You Weren't Supposed To See. It's "a television recording -- a kinescope, if you like," made by CBS to showcase the newest electronic gadgetry that they offered to outside producers, and probably shown at broadcasting trade shows. Hosts Rex Marshall and Ann Amouri introduce such then state-of-the-art technology as the Photo Matte, Electromatte, "limbo sets," various trick lenses and the kaleidoscopic oscilloscope.

Plus more!


  • Fri., March 22 @ The Franklin Institute: Spectacular Spectacular film screening (plus lots more from others!)
  • Sun., March 24 @ The Rose Valley Museum (Media, Pa.): Bubblegum-making workshop featuring The Story of Bubblegum!
  • Sat., April 6 @ The Bok Building auditorium: All new From Philadelphia with Love program
  • Wed., April 24 @ Princeton Garden Theatre (Princeton, N.J.): Fashion Undressed: Films of Style and Beauty
  • Fri., April 26 @ Glen Foerd: Silent film The King on Main Street with live pipe organ music from Don Kinnier!
  • Thurs., May 2 @ The Ambler Theater (Ambler, Pa.): Fashion Undressed: Films of Style and Beauty
  • Thurs., May 16 @ Bryn Mawr Film Institute (Bryn Mawr, Pa.): All new From Philadelphia with Love program

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    NEW! 2008 interview with Secret Cinema's Jay Schwartz from an academic journal

    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: 3/1/24
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