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Obsolescence Forever! Celebrating A Low-Budget Musical And 28mm Filmmaking

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 17, 2014 7:00PM

2013_5_2_CornsAPoppin.jpg That which is obsolete exerts a fascination because it's out of date, disused, abandoned. Though the Northwest Chicago Film Society excels at spotlighting the films of yesteryear, using vintage technology, don't call them obsolete. They may be between homes (again) but they've hardly gone dormant. In fact, things are hopping. And Corn’s-A-Poppin’. That's right, the practically unknown (yet cultishly admired) Kansas City musical co-written by Robert Altman at the tender age of 29 has been restored, and a new 35mm print will premiere next Monday, June 23, at the Music Box. We were able to preview the restoration, and despite some warbly sound in parts, the movie is shinier and cornier than ever. Essentially a downhome musical shot on a shoestring, Corn’s-A-Poppin' is quirky oddity that lies somewhere in the twilight zone between Ma & Pa Kettle and John Waters. It's a delightful throwback to when an earnest "hey kids, let's put on a show" movie could be created by employees of an industrial filmmaking company. J.R. Jones has more on the film and its preservation over at the Reader.

Even as the Music Box readies their 70mm Film Festival, NCFS has upped the ante with their own event. Or should we say downed? Around 1912 the 28mm film format was introduced in an attempt to secure the non-professional market, targeting schools, churches, classrooms, and homes. The prints were less flammable and easier to handle. However, by 1920 the format had been abandoned; 16mm (introduced by Kodak in 1923) would eventually take its place. A surprisingly large number of original 28mm films have survived. But projection equipment that's in working order is rarer than hen's teeth. Dino Everett of the Hugh Hefner Moving Image Archive at USC actually has such a projector (from 1918!) and on Wednesday, June 25 at 8 p.m. he'll use it to screen a whole program of rarities at Northwestern's Annie May Swift Hall. Scheduled films include That Model from Paris, The Life of George Washington, and The Crazy Villa. Admission is free.