Some notes from Danny Kuchuck
Besides reuniting with colleagues and learning about their adventures in the field of moving image archiving, some local history was absorbed during the 2017 AMIA annual conference.
New Orleans has a rich cultural and artistic history, with many music genres and performers originating from there and the surrounding regions. But being the film nerds we are, some of the PRO-TEK film preservationists were looking forward to seeing the recently renovated Saenger Theater, which reopened its doors after a multi-million redevelopment project featuring an authentic restoration of the original 1927 design updated with state-of-art technical systems.
Saenger Theaters were scattered around the southern United States but this one in New Orleans was the flagship. Seating 3400, it was designed by Architect Emile Weil and it was a great example of the “Atmospheric” style of movie theaters.
Atmospheric Theater design meant the seating area was designed to feel like you were sitting in a courtyard or a European village square. The ceilings would be painted and lit to look like the skies, complete with twinkling stars, celestial constellations and moving clouds as the show began. And there were balconies surrounding you that evoked the feeling of sitting outdoors with your neighbors on a beautiful night, in an Italian Renaissance villa courtyard.
When it opened in 1927, the Saenger was advertised as having “An Acre of Seats in a Garden of Florentine Splendor”
Heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the theater remained closed until a $53 million renovation began in 2012. Now reopened and being used as a legitimate theater, we didn’t have time to go inside and admire the renovation, which includes carefully matched paint and lighting, but we grabbed this photo of the beautifully renovated marquis.
The Krewe of Jingle
New Orleans’ annual celebration of Carnival and its Mardi Gras parades is a tradition dating back to the 1800’s. While believed to have begun in this area of the United States in Mobile, Alabama, it later moved to New Orleans.
It’s around 1856 that we first begin to see the use of the word “Krewe” to signify a group of residents that would plan and execute a parade. The Mistick Krewe of Comus was the first and remains the oldest of these groups among the dozens that now exist.
Every Krewe has its own customs and traditions and they design and pay for their floats and the many strings of beads they toss to the crowds that gather.
But it’s not just Mardi Gras at which Krewes parade. At this year’s AMIA Conference, we got treated to a massive Christmas parade that passed by our host hotel, just outside the French Quarter.
The Krewe of Jingle put on a great show, with music, dancing, beads being tossed everywhere and yes, leading the parade was a float with a massive Santa Claus, on his way to the Bayou.
AMIA always does an excellent job, encouraging the film archiving community that gathers annually at the conference to discover the local film culture, and choosing locations that fit the bill. And while we focus primarily on film archiving and preservation discussions and teachings, my PRO-TEK colleagues and I are happy to take advantage of these opportunities to learn more about all aspects of cinematic history.