Plot Points du C-U

Jump to: C-U | 1914 . 1915 . 1916 . 1922 . 1957 . 1976 . 1985 . 1987 . 1991 . 1994 . 1996 . 1997 . 2002 . 2005 . 2006 . 2007 | MFHQ | 1916 . 1997 . 1999 . 2001 . 2005 . 2006 . 2007 . 2014

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CONFIDENTIAL ALMANAC | A Sequence of Local Cinema

We’re hip to the fact that our friends and neighbors rarely receive an opportunity to look over the local film history other than through the lenses of C-U Confidential and the New Art Film Festival. Fortunately, we have corralled evidence of its development for more than two decades and tucked the material portion away at the Secret MICRO-FILM Headquarters, preserving the beats on the cinematic timeline of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, as best we can. Unfortunately, a good portion of our knowledge rarely rates a nod in the context of our current reporting, even if we’re confident it would interest or amaze. What should we do with the evergreen tales, memorable highlights, and one-off occurrences that help shape our scene in a reduced light? We use them or you lose them, of course. The Confidential Almanac, a series of capsule comments that recall those moments, has appeared intermittently in our weekly Calendar posts since 2014, and C-U Blogfidential now presents a stand-alone compilation that reads in chronological order from oldest to most recent. The Almanac is for the enjoyment of casual visitors as well as research by arts proponents, historians, and other authors in our communities. We’ll continue to piece together this patchwork of movie progress as time allows; please feel free to write us with questions or suggestions for future additions and factual corrections. | Jason Pankoke

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1914 | 104 years ago…

Monday, October 19: Owners of the brand-new New Orpheum Theatre in downtown Champaign open for business according to the Urbana Courier-Herald; entertainment scheduled for 7:30 and 9 p.m. shows includes “five high-class vaudeville acts,” an “enlarged orchestra,” and “special exclusive photo plays” per a news item and advertisement in that day’s edition. Designed by the Chicago architectural firm of Rapp & Rapp after the Royal Opera theater within the Palace of Versailles in Versailles, France, the building now houses the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum. | Back to Top

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1915 | 103 years ago…

December: The Macmillan Company of New York publishes what cinema historians will eventually consider the first English-language book to seriously appreciate the aesthetics of film, The Art of the Moving Picture, written by the Springfield, Illinois-raised poet and essayist Vachel Lindsay. Rarely appearing in bibliographies of his work is a follow-up entitled The Progress and Poetry of the Movies, released well after the untimely passing of Lindsay (1879-1931) and hard to find today. Conversely, both the 1915 and 1922 editions of Moving Picture can easily be accessed as electronic or print, including a 2000 reissue from Random House that is guest edited by filmmaker Martin Scorsese and features an introduction by the late Stanley Kaufmann, film reviewer at The New Republic for more than a half century. Project Gutenberg eBook | Back to Top

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1916 | 102 years ago…

Friday, October 27: Proclaimed to be one of the grandest playhouses in Illinois and designed by local architectural firm Aschauer & Waggoner as a completely fireproof structure, the Lincoln Square Theatre opens for business in downtown Decatur and hosts a standing-room-only crowd that enjoys a touring production of the Broadway comedy, Hit-the-Trail-Holiday, as recounted in Lincoln Square Theatre by Jasper P. DeVidal. Although constructed to include a roomy backstage area, orchestra pit, and pitch-perfect acoustics for live performances, the Lincoln Square would be retrofit in the coming months to accommodate motion pictures. Managers eventually added a projection booth in June 1917 and played their first films, THE CALL OF HER PEOPLE and THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER, the next month, following with the installation of a pipe organ in January 1919. | Back to Top

Tuesday, November 28: Mayor Dan Dineen excitedly welcomes a capacity crowd to opening night at the Avon Theatre on Water Street in downtown Decatur, as retold in Flickering Images: The History and Haunting of the Avon Theatre by Troy Taylor. Unlike the month-old Lincoln Square Theatre located just three blocks away, the Avon is designed by owner/manager Joseph Allman and architect R.O. Rosen to be a motion picture house, first and foremost, with floor space allotted for a small orchestra to accompany certain films and a pipe organ scheduled for installation by year’s end. The debut attraction is THE FALL OF A NATION, a far-fetched war fantasia that is directed and written by the controversial minister, lecturer, and segregationist Thomas F. Dixon, Jr., whose novel The Clansman was adapted recently by D.W. Griffith as THE BIRTH OF A NATION. | Back to Top

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1922 | 96 years ago…

Friday, June 9: A pet project developed in parallel with a remarkable early career in electrical engineering, University of Illinois professor Joseph Tykocinski-Tykociner demonstrates a “sound-on-film” projector for his colleagues and university officials in Room 100 of what is now the Material Science and Engineering Building on campus. His apparatus is capable of reading and amplifying a “sound track” encoded along the side of a film strip, thanks to photoelectric cells developed by UI physics professor Jakob Kuntz. Friction between the inventor and his employer over patent rights to the device, along with a chilly reception from the movie industry, would thwart his dreams of it being put into widespread use. Extensive collections of his papers and other ephemera, including schematic drawings of the projection system and video duplicates of the surviving film tests, have been stored in the UI Archives since Tykociner’s passing in 1969. | Back to Top

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1957 | 61 years ago…

Thursday, June 20: Per news items in Boxoffice magazine, the science-fiction double feature of BEGINNING OF THE END and THE UNEARTHLY is scheduled to open today on more than 200 screens in the South and Midwest through Los Angeles distributor Republic Pictures Corporation. Already, the bill appears to be a hit for a brand-new production studio, AB-PT Pictures, based on the response afforded its world premiere at the Roosevelt Theater in Chicago last night with BEGINNING stars Peggie Castle and Peter Graves in attendance. Possibly more appealing to the Roosevelt audience is the film’s scenario, placing the action almost entirely in the Land of Lincoln despite the yarn being shot in California locations and sound stages by producer-director Bert I. Gordon. (Chicago Daily Tribune reviewer “Mae Tineefalls into this camp.) BEGINNING recounts a rampage from downstate Illinois to the Windy City of ravenous locusts, enlarged greatly after consuming experimental seeds and grains developed by local agriculturalists. Castle’s wire reporter character detours from covering a jet fighter unveiling at the real-life Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul to net her big bug story, while the roll call of cities and towns referenced in the first two acts also includes Champaign, Decatur, Joliet, Ludlow, Paxton, Peoria, Pontiac, Springfield, and Urbana. Flights of geographic fancy are intermixed with the regional accuracy – “the Ludlow forest,” “suburbs of Paxton” – never mind the omnipresent SoCal hills in many an exterior frame! Nearly a half-century later in February of 2003, “Mr. B.I.G.” – nicknamed so due to the plethora of oversized men, women, and monsters in his output – would attend the annual Insect Fear Film Festival at the University of Illinois; an honorary slate paired Gordon’s EARTH VS. THE SPIDER (1958) and EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (1977) with BEGINNING. | Back to Top

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1976 | 42 years ago…

Thursday, July 15: Beverly Hills, CA-based distributor Crown International Pictures opens the film DEATH RIDERS on 100 screens in the Kansas City-Omaha region of the Midwest, according to the exhibition trade magazine Boxoffice. One of the only non-fiction titles in the company’s catalog and the rare documentary to play the drive-in circuit, DEATH RIDERS is directed by James Wilson of Hallmark Entertainment and provides a behind-the-scenes look at the Death Riders Motorcycle Thrill Show, a traveling stunt team founded in the early Seventies by Floyd Reed, Sr., and featuring his teenage son Danny as “Mr. T.N.T.” Two weeks prior to this roll out, the film’s world premiere took place at the North Drive-In of Terre Haute, IN, on Friday, July 2, a live Death Riders exhibition providing additional impact at the start of the show. Booking agent T.N.T. Productions is based in the Reed family’s hometown of Danville, IL, while the crew’s practice stadium is 25 miles away in Cayuga, IN; a memorable scene in DEATH RIDERS finds Danny’s grandmother Clara fainting in the Cayuga grandstand after watching him crash in front of the hometown crowd. Additional thrills performed for camera by the Death Riders would appear a year later in the fictional action-comedy DEATH DRIVER, produced and self-distributed by prolific North Carolina independent filmmaker Earl Owensby. | Back to Top

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1985 | 33 years ago…

Saturday, June 1: Geoff Merritt opened the Campustown media rental store, That’s Rentertainment, in Johnstowne Center. After bouncing around that building for their first decade, Rentertainment moved a half block east to their ultimate location at 512 E. John St., Champaign. History | Back to Top

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1987 | 31 years ago…

Thursday, February 12: TURTLE DIARY, a quirky British comedy written by Harold Pinter and starring Ben Kingsley and Glenda Jackson, is shown at the New Art Theatre on opening night, according to The Art Theater: Playing Movies for 100 Years by Perry Morris, et al. After reaching a deal on New Year’s Day to purchase the vintage Park/Art building at 126 W. Church St. in downtown Champaign, local entrepreneur John Manley enlisted Tom Angelica as general manager and Ron Epple as content programmer to help fix up the location and book quality international cinema for the area’s movie lovers. Manley rechristened the venue as the “New Art” to differentiate it from a previous decade-and-a-half run as an “Art Theater” specializing in adult films. Despite the passing of both Manley and Epple within the next few years, Angelica would keep the New Art in business until February 2003. | Back to Top

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1991 | 27 years ago…

July 1-15: Location shooting for the big-screen biography of legendary baseball player George “Babe” Ruth, aptly titled THE BABE, takes place at Danville Stadium on the south end of Danville, IL. Led by director Arthur Hiller, the production crew redresses the home of the Danville Dans club to alternately resemble Fenway Park of Boston and the defunct Forbes Field of Pittsburgh for scenes in the film; some shots are eventually augmented with early CGI effects to extend the upper decks and fill the stands not populated with flesh-and-blood extras recruited from the immediate area. Hollywood actors who are on hand to perform include Bruce Boxleitner, Kelly McGillis, and star John Goodman. Universal Pictures would release THE BABE on Friday, April 17, 1992, to more than 1,500 screens in North America. News-Gazette article | Back to Top

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1994 | 24 years ago…

Sunday, May 8: Feature drama WITH HONORS, partly filmed on the University of Illinois campus, ends its second weekend of wide release through Warner Bros. as the top-grossing movie in North America with $3.7 million. Fellow college-set comedy, PCU, takes the 11th slot on the box-office chart with just under $1 million gross, also in its second week wide through 20th Century Fox; co-producer is UIUC alum and American Film Institute faculty Barry Sabath. Box Office Mojo | Back to Top

Friday, October 21: Following early-bird reviews by The New York Times‘ Caryn James and The Los Angeles Times‘ Kenneth Turan, The Chicago Sun-Times would print Roger Ebert’s ecstatic vote of confidence in the documentary HOOP DREAMS, a Chicago-based production about two inner-city high school students banking on college basketball careers as a step towards the proverbial “way out.” His persistent support of this film famously hit a crescendo when the movie critic cried foul over the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences overlooking it in both the “best picture” and “best documentary” Oscar categories. HOOP DREAMS director Steve James would ultimately return the favor with his work on the Ebert documentary LIFE ITSELF. | Back to Top

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1996 | 22 years ago…

Friday, May 10: Warner Bros. releases the action film TWISTER, directed by Jan de Bont and starring Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt, which becomes the second highest grossing release of the year in the United States and Canada after INDEPENDENCE DAY. Many communities across the nation probably did not feel so enthusiastic about the movie because, less than a month before on the evening of Friday, April 19, an extremely volatile storm system produced dozens of tornadoes in the central Midwest and the South. More than 30 funnel clouds were reported in Illinois alone and two of the strongest, rated at the “F3” category, caused serious damage in southwest Urbana and nearly destroyed the small town of Ogden. Amazingly, the only person killed in those Champaign County incidents was a Missouri woman traveling on I-74 near Ogden, according to a CNN report at the time. A chronological chart of the unfolding weather disaster from that night can be found on Wikipedia, an illustrated analysis of why the storm behaved as it did can be reviewed in this report filed by the UIUC Department of Atmospheric Sciences, a compilation of police and storm chaser video that depicts the tornadoes and aftermath can be viewed at The News-Gazette, and storm-by-storm information can be studied at The Tornado History Project, an on-line database of confirmed sightings in the United States that is designed and maintained by Joshua Lietz of Urbana. In the present, dearest readers should refresh themselves on tornado safety every spring by consulting the National Weather Service and other trusted agencies; informed protocol will help save lives way more readily than quoting dialogue from TWISTER while on the run, we imagine. | Back to Top

June 14-27: After celebrating a grand opening in March and establishing a business model of serving alcohol and pizza with second-run Hollywood fare, the operators of the Brew & View at the Thunderbird team with The Octopus alternative weekly to develop signature events. Their inaugural show, “The 1st Annual Octopus Sci Fi Film Festival,” presents several science fiction classics and favorites across a two-week summer stretch at Urbana’s Thunderbird Theater, touted in its previous first-run era as having the largest movie screen in Champaign-Urbana. Selected by Octopus publisher Paul Young with assistance from his staff, including future New Art Film Festival program director Jason Pankoke, the marathon pairs episodes from the 1940 serial incarnation of pulp hero “The Shadow” with a choice roster: 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, ALIEN, BLADE RUNNER, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951), DR. STRANGELOVE, INVADERS FROM MARS (1953), THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, THE ROAD WARRIOR, THE TERMINATOR, and THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953). All films are projected from 35 and 16 mm prints rented through various agencies from all over the United States. Similar shows of a more esoteric bent would follow the well-received “Sci Fi” experience over the next year, ceasing in mid-1997 after the Brew & View’s closure. | Back to Top

Thursday, July 25: James R. Velde, a former Hollywood executive, passes away at the Motion Picture & Television Hospital in Woodland Hills, CA, at age 82, according to an obituary published by the Los Angeles Daily News. Velde spent his entire career in the motion picture industry apart from serving in the United States army during World War II, starting at a regional shipping office of Paramount Pictures in the mid-1930s and eventually retiring in 1977 as a senior vice president of United Artists after nearly 30 years with that studio. He is well regarded in the industry for his innovations in film distribution and marketing as well as philanthropy. A native of Bloomington, IL, Velde joined Paramount after graduating from Illinois Wesleyan University, per a 1976 Boxoffice magazine article. | Back to Top

Tuesday, November 19: The Normal Theater in downtown Normal, IL, offers two shows of the Italian drama IL POSTINO (THE POSTMAN), directed by Michael Radford and nominated for the “Best Picture” Academy Award earlier in the year. IL POSTINO is the first Normal presentation sponsored by Beyond Normal Films, a month-old society founded by Colleen Farlee and Charline Watts that plans to actively select and screen quality international cinema for the Bloomington-Normal public. A “BNF pick” has played the Normal nearly every month since, while the Farlee Film Festival provides audiences with a three-week-long fix of notable imports once every few months. The non-profit organization also hosts member-only gatherings and supports movie-related community projects. | Back to Top

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1997 | 21 Years Ago…

Tuesday, January 21: 35 MILES FROM NORMAL, the debut feature written and directed by Mark Schwahn, receives its world premiere as part of the “American Spectrum” leg at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT. Produced over a four-week shoot last September and October in Chicago and downstate Pontiac, IL, the comedy-drama is about young adults seeking their niche while a factory strike looms over their small town. Following additional festival play and respectable press notices during the next two years, 35 MILES finally opened commercially on Friday, May 14, 1999, at the GKC Crescent Theaters in Pontiac according to the Bloomington (IL) Pantagraph. Although this was to have launched a self-distribution push by Pontiac native Schwahn and Chicago-based producer James D. Stern for the film, doubling as publicity for eventual home video releases, 35 MILES never found its own niche and is impossible to see despite the notable entertainment credits amassed since then by both men as well as cast members Ethan Supplee and Alan Tudyk. It also stars Gabriel Olds, Jennifer Crystal, Kellie Overbey, G. Riley Mills, and Tracy Walsh. | Back to Top

Thursday, March 13: A marquee attraction of “Cyberfest ’97,” a weeklong symposium at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign exploring the correlation between technology and the arts as well as the place of artificial intelligence in the future of humankind, takes place this evening at the Virginia Theatre in downtown Champaign. A 70mm screening of the visionary Stanley Kubrick production 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), hosted by Chicago Sun-Times film critic and UIUC alumnus Roger Ebert, is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. screening. This will be followed by Ebert’s participation in the “Cyberfest Gala” tomorrow night, Friday, March 14, at the UIUC Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana, during which he will interview participants of 2001 including actors Gary Lockwood, slated to attend in person, and Keir Dullea, via prerecorded interview. Legendary science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke, whose short story The Sentinel inspired both his expanded full-length novel and the feature film, is expected to converse live with Ebert via satellite from his home in Sri Lanka. The glowing response given to Urbana native Ebert, as well as the theoretical discussions centered on cybernetic “Urbana native” HAL-9000 from the film and novel, would lead to the launch of Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival at the Virginia two years later. Of course, HAL and 2001 would be revisited at “Ebertfest” in 2001 as the opening night presentation. | Back to Top

Tuesday, July 15: As part of its tenth season on PBS, the nonfiction showcase POV airs a documentary produced by University of Illinois faculty member Jay Rosenstein, IN WHOSE HONOR? At its heart is Charlene Teters, a Native American belonging to the Spokane tribe who became alarmed by the presence of sports mascot “Chief Illiniwek” on the UI campus while attending for graduate studies in the late Eighties. Her subsequent efforts to alert the general public on the misuse of Indians as commercialized symbols, in particular for activities embraced largely by white audiences who otherwise ignore their racist and classist overtones, created a firestorm of opinion and emotion in Champaign-Urbana. HONOR presents the issue in a balanced and rational manner while illustrating a stubborn lack of empathy from “Chief” defenders who see the fictional warrior as a positive influence on the student body and iconic symbol embraced by alumni. More than one million viewers tune in to this episode of POV, according to Rosenstein, and HONOR has persisted as a catalyst in the discussion of cultural appropriation in America during conferences and film festivals, via community organizations, and within the classroom ever since. Following Teters’ lead and Rosenstein’s convictions, Indian activists and allies would accelerate their protests across the United States of similar imagery connected to sports teams. Original distributor New Day Films of Blooming Grove, NY, a specialist in social issue media, still offers HONOR to rent or purchase for educational use. | Back to Top

July: Location filming commences and wraps in Champaign County on the feature-length drama COYOTE’S HONOR, a project spearheaded by Urbana native Michael Wiese to experiment in micro-budget movie production. As an author and publisher at an imprint dedicated to instructing readers on various aspects of the filmmaking process, Wiese is using the opportunity to develop a screen story (with recent University of Illinois graduate Doug McCord) based on available resources and talent in the Champaign-Urbana area while also testing prosumer MiniDV video gear and post-production software that is relatively new to the marketplace. English literature major Eric Wippo plays the “coyote” of the title, a wily drifter who does his best to disrupt a nucleus of friends and frenemies in a Midwest college town; mostly drawn from the current pool of Krannert Center for the Performing Arts summer stock players, the cast also includes John Maclay, Mike Kuehl, Will Ransom, Kelly Cooper, Heather Saliny, Emily A. Parks, Heather Lamb, Dustin Wilkinson, and UI acting instructor Richard Barrows. WILL-TV producer Tim Hartin and Southern Illinois University cinema student Chris Dowell form part of the tiny crew. Although Wiese will soon chronicle the lessons learned with COYOTE in an article series for Videography magazine and as an appendix in the second edition of The Independent Film and Videomaker’s Guide (Michael Wiese Productions, Studio City, CA, 1998), COYOTE itself has remained lost in the cornfields and all but absent from the Internet wilds despite initial plans to set it free on the festival circuit. | Back to Top

November 1-3: University of Illinois Ph.D. candidate Grace Giorgio, recently transplanted from San Francisco to Urbana, and Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant manager Eric Fisher, an avid cartoonist and Decatur native, launch the Champaign-Urbana Freaky Film Festival on campus to showcase wild independent cinema from across the country. Opening night takes place in the auditorium of the Noyes Laboratory of Chemistry building on the UI Main Quad, anchored by the black-and-white crime film RUNNING TIME and personal appearances by its producer/director Josh Becker and star Bruce Campbell. Two dozen shorts are presented between this event and subsequent shows the next two evenings at the Channing-Murray Foundation chapel, located two blocks away from Noyes. Freaky would “freak the hicks” annually for three more Halloween seasons, first at the just-opened Canopy Club in Urbana and then at the New Art Theatre in Champaign. As reported on 11/12/10, 1/20/17 at CUBlog. | Back to Top

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2002 | 16 years ago…

December 17-19: Hundreds of extras in professional attire populate the background of scenes being filmed at the Illinois State Capitol in downtown Springfield, IL, for the comedy LEGALLY BLONDE 2: RED, WHITE & BLONDE. Director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld and his production team chose the statehouse to stand in for the United States Capitol Building after searching nationwide, a necessary extra step given how Washington, D.C. landmarks are still restricted areas in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks. For their participation, non-speaking talent and bit part players culled from a November casting call receive pay and an opportunity to watch Hollywood filmmakers at work as well as actresses Reese Witherspoon and Sally Field perform in their roles, according to a Daily Illini story published on January 17, 2003. Also starring Regina King, Jennifer Coolidge, Bruce McGill, Luke Wilson, and Bob Newhart, the further pursuits of improbable Harvard University law graduate Elle Woods would be released to more than 3,000 theaters in North America by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures on Wednesday, July 2, 2003. | Back to Top

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2005 | 13 years ago…

Friday, April 22: Chris Folkens, an ambitious University of Illinois senior in LAS-Speech Communication and member of Illini Film & Video, premiered his second narrative featurette TOXIN during two shows at Armory 101 inside the Armory Building concurrent with that year’s Roger Ebert’s Film Festival. Rumored to be in attendance was Hollywood producer Roy Lee (THE RING, THE GRUDGE), otherwise visiting campus to speak at the East Asian Languages and Cultures department. Folkens’ action-drama starred then-UI students Aaron Golden (FALLING OVERNIGHT) and Karla Strum (TERRI, LITTLE ACCIDENTS) along with genre film veteran Robert Nolan Clark (RHINELAND). Article | Back to Top

Friday, July 22: On “Collector’s Day,” That’s Rentertainment launched the arduous task of purging approximately 16,000 VHS cassettes from their library to make way for DVD replacements and fresh stock. After dropping prices daily through that weekend, the sale racks would linger for another two years until the remainders vanished. Approximately 100 tapes remain in a token VHS section. Promo | Back to Top

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2006 | 12 years ago…

Wednesday, March 15: The first feature film production from Dreamscape Cinema of Champaign to receive distribution, CRAB ORCHARD, is shown locally at the Virginia Theatre as a Midwest premiere. Producer and writer Robin Christian introduces the 7 p.m. screening to a near-capacity crowd north of 1,300. After appearing first in international markets and undergoing a title change, CRAB ORCHARD would come to U.S. DVD in early 2011 as SHEEBA (Questar Home Video). The cast of this family drama includes Ruby Handler, Dylan Patton, Betsy Zajko, Judge Reinhold, and Edward Asner. Media entrepreneur and photojournalist Michael J. Jacobs directed the film for Dreamscape. As reported on 3/12/06, 3/19/06, 1/27/11 at CUBlog. | Back to Top

Saturday, April 22: The University of Illinois students of Illini Film & Video premiere their feature length horror-comedy, THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS VS. A MUMMY. Involving dozens of undergraduates and taking the better part of two academic years to finish, MUMMY plays at 7 and 9 p.m. in the lecture auditorium of Noyes Laboratory on the UI Main Quad, with an encore set for the following afternoon at the UI Spurlock Museum a few blocks away. The prerequisite DVD of this project, envisioned by IFV president Chris Lukeman as a way to encourage club members to work together as a team and try out multiple roles on a single production, would debut the next month and become a long-standing ice breaker for incoming freshmen unfamiliar with the group. In recent years, MUMMY has been in permanent late-night rotation on UI-7, the broadcasting service of the university. As reported on 4/15/06, 4/21/06, 5/14/06 at CUBlog. | Back to Top

Sunday, April 23: BrainSmart Productions, a townie collective led by lo-fi filmmakers Jason Butler and Mark Peaslee, unleashes “Episode 2” of their action-filled B-movie WEREWOLF CEMETERY. The program introducing this newest creation also features “Episode 1” of the “gravediggers vs. lycanthropes vs. normal folk from the big city” epic, the first installment of smaller-scale series THE ADVENTURES OF THE SCREAMING APE, and a music video for “Serrated Edge” by The Living Blue, playing both this night and the next at the stroke of midnight in the beer garden of Mike ‘n Molly’s in downtown Champaign. Four segments total of WEREWOLF would eventually be made by Butler and company, although one must be tight with participants to access the full episodes as they have never been formally released on home video or uploaded for on-line streaming. This is about as underground as it gets with the films of Champaign-Urbana! As reported on 4/15/06, 4/22/16 at CUBlog. | Back to Top

Monday, May 1: Comedian and television writer Mark Roberts, a native of nearby Tolono and former resident of Urbana, begins production this week on his self-financed film WELCOME TO TOLONO. Based on the same-named play, written and directed by Roberts as an “artist-in-residence” production at the Station Theatre in Urbana the previous summer, TOLONO is filmed during a five-week schedule in its small town namesake. Much of the original stage cast appears including Brian Reedy, Mike Trippiedi, David Butler, Kay Bohannon Holley, Gary Ambler, and Barbara Evans, who are joined in this screen adaptation by Mike Harvey, Colleen Klein, Joi Hoffsommer, Anne Shapland Kearns, and Rien Rogers. A premiere of the darkly humorous drama, concerning disparate individuals who attend a weekly support group in the basement of a local church, would take place at the University of IllinoisFoellinger Auditorium in June 2007 after which it played a smattering of regional festivals. TOLONO has yet to be issued on consumer formats or via streaming. As reported on 5/4/06, 5/14/06, 7/11/07, 8/19/07 at CUBlog. | Back to Top

Saturday, June 17: Champaign movie studio Dreamscape Cinema follows up the successful local debut of their flagship title SHEEBA in March with the world premiere of sophomore release DISCONNECT. The time travel drama starring Steffany Huckaby, Michael Muhney, Amanda Troop, Holmes Osbourne, Eddie Jones, and Tami Erin makes its 7 p.m. debut at Foellinger Auditorium on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana. DISCONNECT would closely follow its predecessor into the United States entertainment marketplace by a few weeks in early 2011 as a DVD edition issued by Osiris Entertainment. Dreamscape founder Robin Christian served as writer and director for this offering. As reported on 6/6/06, 2/19/11 at CUBlog. | Back to Top

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ZOMBIE MOVIE (Hazard Films/747 Productions)

2007 | 11 years ago…

Friday, July 20: Brandon Clayton, a recent graduate of the cinema and photography program at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, premieres his horror-comedy featurette ZOMBIE MOVIE at the Lincoln Square Theatre in downtown Decatur, IL, according to the Herald & Review. A crowd of several hundred takes in the black-and-white film, serving as both spoof and homage to vintage science fiction thrillers, which Clayton produced on a shoestring budget some 30 miles away in his hometown of Taylorville, IL. The show also samples the budding filmmaker’s previous shorts created during his high school and college years. Following a move to Los Angeles, Clayton has since established a career in reality television including a current position as manager of operations at Lighthearted Entertainment of Burbank, CA. His on-set credits include Lighthearted’s LONE STAR LEGEND, PLASTIC WIVES, and ARE YOU THE ONE? along with DEADLIEST CATCH, ICE ROAD TRUCKERS, and DANCING WITH THE STARS prior to them. As reported on 7/18/07 at CUBlog. | Back to Top

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The following section makes note of various MFHQ milestones that help define how we came to be at the place we are today. Some entries are vital to our identity and purpose while others will come off as larks that at least demonstrate our character. We salute all our compatriots du C-U who have shared these special times with us or influenced our efforts in independent media. | Jason Pankoke

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1916 | 102 years ago…

Friday, November 24: Forrest James Ackerman is born in Los Angeles, CA, to William and Carroll Ackerman. Apart from working odd jobs, attending college in Berkeley, and serving in the army during World War II, he would spend decades at the forefront of science fiction and Golden Age Hollywood fandom with his seminal contribution coming over a quarter century (1958-1983) as creator and editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. After final years filled with health and legal issues, Ackerman passed away in his Los Angeles apartment on Thursday, December 4, 2008, at age 92, preceded by his wife and companion Wendayne in 1990. Although no overt connection between “Forry” and Champaign-Urbana, IL, has been identified, his sense of wonder and innate love for divulging pop culture arcana did heavily inspire a budding Champaign writer to begin publishing his own titles. | Back to Top

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1997 | 21 years ago…

Friday, September 19: Warner Bros. releases the Regency Enterprises production of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, based on the James Ellroy crime novel of the same name, to more than 750 theaters nationwide. The stylish neo-noir is directed by Curtis Hanson and stars Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, David Strathairn, Danny DeVito, and Kim Basinger, the latter of whom would win an Academy Award for her work along with Hanson and Brian Helgeland for their screenplay adaptation. It is rumored this genre classic’s title, style, and apropos mise-en-scène might possibly have influenced the identity of a certain film digest published far from the City of Angels, mired somewhere in the middle of the mysterious Midwest, beginning a decade later. | Back to Top

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1999 | 19 years ago…

Friday, August 6: Micro-Scope #1, our first original print publication after MICRO-FILM: The Warning Shot, is placed in Champaign-Urbana businesses for free not unlike our current C-U Confidential digest. Each two-sided newsletter featured as many locally-oriented news items as we could cram onto that color paper stock in our pre-Internet era!! | Back to Top

Friday, October 29: After more than a year of development, networking, and production, the first print issue of MICRO-FILM magazine is introduced on opening night of the third annual Freaky Film Festival at the New Art Theatre in downtown Champaign, Illinois. Why this matters | Back to Top

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2001 | 17 years ago…

Friday, April 20: Downtown Champaign establishments are adorned with the work of local artists for The Octopus Gallery Walk, a precursor to the Boneyard Arts Festival. Hosted by Southlynn Studios in the Octopus office space is a unique exhibit called “Zineophilia,” featuring paintings and mixed media pieces from the pages of The Ides of March as well as a table adorned with dozens of ‘zines for visitors to browse. Homegrown efforts include low hug by A.j. Michel, Silly Little Trouser Monkees by Brad Bugos, the aforementioned Ides by Dann Tincher and Damian Duffy, and our own flagship mag, MICRO-FILM. | Back to Top

Saturday, April 21: Less than 24 hours later at The Highdive, located across Main Street from the Lincoln Building where “Zineophilia” reigned, Mr. JaPan emcees his first-ever film show. Dubbed “MICRO-FILM Vérité,” the “official programme” is comprised of eclectic low-budget cinema from near and far. Local selections include student shorts from the University of Illinois and Illinois State University, the early Mike Trippiedi “slasher in rhyme” BUCKY McSNEAD, and a trailer for Hart D. Fisher’s THE GARBAGE MAN. Filmmakers from across the nation, such as Cory McAbee (THE MAN IN THE MOON), Jim Sikora (STAGEFRIGHT CHAMELEON), Rusty Nails (SANTIAGO VS. WIGFACE), and Mike White (WHO DO YOU THINK YOU’RE FOOLING?), also represent. | Back to Top

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2005 | 13 years ago…

Week of Monday, October 24: Opteryx Press of Champaign begins shipping and store placement of MICRO-FILM 7, the imprint’s flagship journal. Articles cover the Lars von Trier “challenge” documentary THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS, the Ron Santo biographical film THIS OLD CUB, current productions from Haxan Films (THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT), regional indies such as FIVE YEARS and QUALITY OF LIFE, the passing of Sarah Jacobson (MARY JANE’S NOT A VIRGIN ANYMORE), and more. This 64-page issue is the last print edition of MF to date. Purchase | Back to Top

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2006 | 12 years ago…

Saturday, February 25: Opteryx Press of Champaign launches C-U Blogfidential, an Internet adaptation of the “C-U Confidential” section from their flagship journal MICRO-FILM. In the first entry, dated 8:57 p.m., editor Jason Pankoke describes an intention of “[making] a minor splash creating a community history through cinema, one that we can definitely call our own,” with the forum as its potential epicenter. CUBlog has published local film-related content every single month since then. | Back to Top

Saturday, October 28: Opteryx Press of Champaign hosts a “MICRO-FILM Movie Show” of low-budget horror cinema for Halloween including DRAWING BLOOD, directed by the Wolinski Brothers, and SEX MACHINE, directed by Christopher Sharpe, in the upper level of Mike ‘n Molly’s in downtown Champaign. This is their fourth screening of the year at the popular bar, all curated and hosted by editor/publisher Jason Pankoke, and also the last standalone MF event to date. | Back to Top

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2007 | 11 years ago…

Wednesday, April 25: In an effort to expand awareness of their on-line forum, C-U Blogfidential, Opteryx Press of Champaign rebrands as Paper Opteryx and releases a companion digest, C-U Confidential. At 36 pages long, CUZine #1 provides a capsule look at downstate Illinois film culture for both Champaign-Urbana residents and patrons of Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival, returning this evening to the Virginia Theatre with GATTACA as its opening selection. The free-to-keep publication features recent CUBlog bulletins as well as excerpts from interviews with local filmmakers Jason Butler, Chris Lukeman, Eleanore Stasheff, and Alaric Rocha. | Back to Top

Monday, April 30: C-U Blogfidential editor Jason Pankoke joins the illustrious ranks of the “drinking fraternity” Pi Omega Omega. Following a marathon showing of projects from Jason “JB” Butler and BrainSmart Productions at Mike ‘n Molly’s in Champaign, several P.O.O. powers-that-be decide to induct Pankoke in the wee hours as “Lenscap.” Amazingly, he manages to write down this milestone and tuck it in a safe place for posterity. Who likes hops-fueled happenstance history? We do! We do! Ca-caw!!! Further information for the downtown disenfranchised… | Back to Top

Week of Monday, September 24: Champaign radio producer and “atomic age culture” fan Jason Croft releases the first edition of Bachelor Pad Magazine, emulating the “men’s digests” of the Fifties and partly inspired by the first print issue of C-U Confidential. Croft’s quarterly publication packs in the hallmarks of the era – pulp stories, pin-up photography spreads, cocktail recipes, and so on – as remembered and practiced by the worldwide subculture keeping it alive. Various topics known beyond the neo-burlesque circuit that would appear in the pages of BPM include Bettie Page, the ultimate 20th century pin-up model, Tura Satana, the memorable leather-clad actress at the fore of Russ Meyer’s feature FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!, and Shag, the popular illustrator loved for his colorful mid-century aesthetic. Also notable is the long-running movie column by Seattle novelist Will Viharo of the “Vic Valentine” private investigator series. Croft has kept BPM on the press ever since, anointing the recent issue 40 as its 10th anniversary number; modern pin-up Kalani Kokonuts graces the cover. As reported on 10/7/07 at CUBlog. | Back to Top

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2014 | 4 years ago…

Friday, October 31: Thanks to a resolution sponsored by representative Kay Hatcher, the Illinois General Assembly has decreed today Svengoolie/Rich Koz Day” in the state of Illinois. The veteran entertainer will make several media and personal appearances in celebration, while his (presumably prerecorded) alter ego appears all day long on national cable network MeTV. Also, props and ephemera from his long-running B-movie program (1979-1986 on WFLD-TV 32, 1995-present on WCIU-TV 26/MeTV) recently went on display in Chicago’s Museum of Broadcast Communications. We hope that Koz can hear our downstate “Hip, hip, hooray!” Why this matters | Back to Top

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Capsules written by Jason Pankoke unless otherwise marked.

Graphics are copyright their respective owners.
When known, sources are cited in pop-up figure captions.

© 2014-2018 Jason Pankoke/C-U Blogfidential
rev. 2-5-18


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