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Preservation At Its Finest

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 30, 2005 5:50PM

Chicago’s cinematic history is being preserved in all sorts of ways this week.

Steve James’s Hoop Dreams, the story of two Chicago high school basketball players, is now part of the National Film Registry, a list of films that have “cultural, historical or aesthetic significance.” Every year, the Library of Congress adds twenty-five films to its National Film Registry from a list of films nominated by the public (click here to send your recommendations for next year’s list).

Also added to the Registry this year is 1961’s A Raisin In The Sun, the story of an African-American family living on the South Side of Chicago. It’s a moving drama and deserving of the honor, even though our memories of it are tainted by the many hackneyed performances of the kitchen scene we saw when we were on the forensics team back in high school.

Closer to home, the Chicago Film Archives is preserving films that document Chicago and Illinois history. In operation for only a year and a half, the non-profit CFA was created to preserve 4,500 films once owned by the Chicago Public Library. While many of the 8 or 16 mm shorts have never been shown in a movie house, they captured their time in a way that a Hollywood picture never could.

2005_12_30_uptown.jpgThough film is one of our favorite mediums of storytelling, oral history predates it by thousands of years. In that spirit, Jerry Vasilatos is keeping the memory of two old Chicago movie houses alive with his screenplay “Palace Treasure.” The script is based on the histories of the Uptown and Granada movie houses in Uptown and Rogers Park, respectively, and tells the story of a group of community activists who are trying to preserve an old movie house that’s scheduled for demolition.

No surprise then that an upcoming reading of Vasilatos’s work is being held in conjunction with the Friends of the Uptown group. The reading will take place at 6 p.m. this Monday, January 2nd at the Golden House Restaurant and Pancake House at 4744 N. Broadway. Email uptown1925 at if you'd like to attend, as seating is limited.

Image: City of Chicago