Capitolfest: A True Cinephile’s Getaway

In less than two weeks I’ll be joining friends at Capitolfest in Rome, New York. Sitting in a darkened 1928 movie palace – listening to the sounds of a Möller organ – watching silent and early talking pictures I’ve never seen – that’s what memorable weekends are made of.

This year’s Capitolfest is the event’s 15th incarnation and my fifth immersion into cinema the way it was meant to be. Before I get to this year’s festival, however, I thought I’d share highlights from previous years. This is my fifth Capitolfestiversary after all…

2013 interview with Art Pierce, the Executive Director of the Capitol Theater.

2014 interview with then Manager, Jack Theakston.

2015 Capitolfest Recap

2016 Classic Movies and More Capitolfest Highlights Video


The schedule for Capitolfest 15, which runs from August 11 through the 13, is available here. So far movies span from about 1918 through the mid-1930s. As always Capitolfest programmers plan on a full dose of original, classic presentations of film shorts – including a new restoration of Laurel & Hardy’s The Battle of the Century (1927) – newsreels and features with live organ accompaniment on one of the few surviving fully working Möller organs.

Every year I arrive in Rome with an open mind and Capitolfest fills it with treasures. This year I expect much of the same since Fay Wray is the featured star and I’ve seen only a handful of her movies. I’m probably partially responsible for what Wray wrote to King Kong in her autobiography, On the Other Hand: A Life Story, ”I admire you because you made only one film and that became famous, whereas I made 75 or 80 and only the one I made with you became really famous.” Clearly it’s my loss. When Wray made King Kong she was 26 years old and had been working in movies for a decade. She appeared in 11 movies in 1933 alone, which is really something. Thankfully I’m getting the opportunity to correct this oversight in Rome.

Aside from the various Fay Wray vehicles on tap this year there are two movies I am particularly excited about. The first is John W. Considine Jr.’s Disorderly Conduct (1932), a rare Fox pre-code starring Spencer Tracy, Sally Ellers, El Brendel, Dickie Moore, Ralph Bellamy and a host of other classic greats. The second is George Abbott’s The Sea God (1930) starring Richard Arlen, Eugene Pallett and Miss Wray. It’s been my experience that anything featuring Eugene Pallette is worth the price of admission.

Also worthy of note is that the Capitolfest experience now also includes additional screenings at the Cinema Capitol, a digital sister cinema next door to the historic main attraction. And then there’s the dealer’s room, which means you should probably have some extra cash at hand for books and posters and whatever else tickles your classic fancy.

There’s still plenty of time to get tickets to this year’s Capitolfest. Believe me, it’s well worth the money even if you miss the “early bird” registration prices, which end today.

Fay Wray

I’ve been covering Capitolfest on this blog and across social media – via @CitizenScreen and Citizen Screen on Twitter and Facebook respectively – since I first stepped foot in Rome five years ago. As such I don’t think it’s necessary for me to state – yet again – why all classics fans should be visiting Rome, NY every August. Instead, I’ll end this post celebrating the fifth anniversary of my discovering this gem – or the gem discovering me – with the words of other Capitolfest attendees…

“For me, Capitolfest is a great opportunity to escape August’s heat and enjoy a curated selection of cinematic treasures, discoveries and oddities with wonderful people, in a vintage theater, and at a leisurely summertime pace.” – Alan Hait @AlanHait

“Capitolfest rescues classic era films from obscurity, but the festival isn’t about obscurity only. It’s, also, about quality. Every film I’ve seen there, successful or not, had at least one element making it worthy to revisit.” – Beth Ann Gallagher of @missbethg and Spellbound by Movies

“Can’t wait to see the Queen of Scream! 11 days to go!” – Classic horror fan, Rob Medaska on Fay Wray who starred in The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), The Vampire Bat (1933) and Doctor X (1932) among others.

“The joy of seeing a classic flick on that big screen, along with an audience that you just KNOW is enjoying this with equal vigor, is frankly pretty damn good.” – Kellee Pratt of @Irishjayhawk66 and Outspoken & Freckled

“The intimacy of Capitolfest is wonderful. Movies are shown at the lovely Capitol Theatre; the dealer’s room and places to eat are right next door. The best part was meeting other classic movie fans who were all very welcoming.” – Toni Ruberto @ToniRuberto of Watching Forever

“My husband Ed isn’t nearly as movie-obsessed as I am but, to my surprise, he attended every screening but one, and he was the first to mention returning to Rome this year. I can’t offer a better Capitolfest testimonial than that.” – Jeff Lundenberger @jlundenberger

“A great paced Film festival where you get to see rarely screened films on 35mm in a movie palace! Especially love the silent films with wonderful accompanists playing the original organ. So glad Aurora told me about this festival four years ago. I wouldn’t miss it!” – Colleen O’Brien Fiore @MiddParent

“My first Capitolfest was four years ago, thanks to Aurora! And I haven’t missed one since… Just LOVE seeing all those rare and historical silents and early talkies with my like-minded friends and classic movie ‘family’. It’s a wonderful weekend for classic movie fans, and I can’t wait!” – Annmarie Gatti of @ClassicMovieHub and Classic Movie Hub

“Going to Capitolfest means many different things. The literal treasure trove of rarities and obscurities and discovering the depth and breadth of their featured actor/actress may be the stated purpose of the festival but what focuses the love of early film are the people. The truly lovely team that brings it all together and the ability to mingle, talk and share a meal with fellow films fans that I respect and admire makes this a film oasis like no other” – Shirley Hughes, Director, Toronto Silent Film Festival @tosilentfilm

“Still the premiere place to see rare, 35mm presentations in a real movie palace. A true cinephile’s getaway!” – Jack Theakston, film historian (borrowed his quote for the post title because it’s true)


5 thoughts

  1. Hope you have fun! Seeing the photos you posted reminds me of just how beautiful Fay Wray was, even if I only saw her in two movies (KK and “The Cobweb”).

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