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Canyon Cinema

Canyon Cinema: The Life and Times of an Independent Film Distributor

Scott MacDonald
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Pages: 480
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  • Book Info
    Canyon Cinema
    Book Description:

    Bringing alive a remarkable moment in American cultural history, Scott MacDonald tells the colorful story of how a small, backyard organization in the San Francisco Bay Area emerged in the 1960s and evolved to become a major force in the development of independent cinema. Drawing from extensive conversations with men and women crucial to Canyon Cinema, from its newsletterCanyon Cinemanews,and from other key sources, MacDonald offers a lively chronicle of the life and times of this influential, idiosyncratic film exhibition and distribution collective. His book features many primary documents that are as engaging and relevant now as they were when originally published, including essays, poetry, experimental writing, and drawings.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94061-1
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[xii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-36)

    By the 1920s, once the commercial narrative feature had established its economic preeminence, the pervasive experimentation that had characterized the first two decades of film history tended to be redirected, roughly speaking, along two different avenues. Many of those who had explored the possibilities of cinematic form and style in the wake of the early experiments of the Edison Studio, the Lumière brothers, and Georges Méliès became lieutenants in the service of the generals of industry feature films. Others established an alternative history of cinema that explicitly and/or implicitly critiqued the growing hegemony of the commercial feature and the audience...

  4. 1: Formation
    (pp. 37-62)

    The decision of filmmakers involved with Canyon Cinema to publish a newsletter was crucial to the evolution of the organization. TheCinemanewswas Ernest Callenbach′s brainchild, though the idea of a news organization serving the local community of filmmakers and film enthusiasts originated with Bruce Baillie. Of course, Baillie′s idea was afilmicnewsletter, and it did result in the production of several short films, but Callenbach seems to have understood that if Canyon were to function and growas an organization, word of mouth and/or the sporadic production of cinematic news items would not be as effective as a...

  5. 2 : Incorporation
    (pp. 63-164)

    Canyon formally incorporated on February 20, 1967. The organization′s purposes are made clear in the articles of incorporation: ″(a) The specific and primary purposes are to establish and operate for educational purposes an organization which will conduct classes and workshops in the preparation and production of high quality non-commercial cinematic works of art, and which will promote the making of high quality cinematic works of art of a non-commercial nature. (b) The general purposes are: 1. To promote the distribution of high quality cinematic works of art to the public. 2. From time to time to make available to the...

  6. 3 : Revitalization
    (pp. 165-240)

    During the years when Diane Kitchen was at the helm of Canyon Cinema (she arrived in 1974, left in 1977), the nature of the organization changed in a variety of ways. Kitchen made efforts to remedy what seemed to be the deterioration of Canyon′s distribution business. The long-discussed separation of distribution from the nonprofit sectors of Canyon took place (with some serious misgivings on the part of some members, including Bruce Conner): the Cinematheque, now housed at the San Francisco Art Institute, became a separate organization, and theCinemanewsbecame a different kind of publication. Kitchen seems to have been...

  7. 4 : Intellectualization
    (pp. 241-398)

    By the mid-1970s, Canyon Cinema′s rental income leveled off, not at a particularly high level, but high enough to allow those working for Canyon and using Canyon to feel that the small business would continue to function and that those running the organization were doing a reasonably good job at providing a much needed service. Of course, now that the San Francisco Cinematheque was an entirely separate operation from Canyon distribution, the excitement that the original Canyon Cinematheque screenings had created during the late 1970s (several of those who worked with Canyon early on have mentioned that the screenings attracted...

  8. 5 : Maintenance
    (pp. 399-430)

    Between 1980 and 1990, Canyon′s income from its distribution efforts roughly doubled. In 1980–1981, Canyon′s total income was $28,841; in 1990–1991, it was $76,255; and this expansion of the business continued for another decade: in 2002–2003, income reached its all-time high of $179,184. A number of factors seem to have contributed to this gradual but consistent rise in fortunes (see the year-by-year listing in appendix 2). Most obviously, the interest in American independent cinema, particularly within educational institutions, was growing. Of course, experimental and avant-garde forms of cinema have never received the level of attention that commercial...

  9. Appendix 1: Canyon Cinema Employees, 1969 to the Present (name and dates of tenure)
    (pp. 431-432)
  10. Appendix 2: Canyon Cinema’s Gross Rentals and Sales, from 1966 until 2006–2007
    (pp. 433-434)
  11. Acknowledgments of Permissions
    (pp. 435-438)
  12. Index
    (pp. 439-461)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 462-463)