Rehabbed Silent Movie Theatre gives 'em something to talk about

THE new kid on the block may also be the oldest on the block. Amid the sneaker and skate shops dotting that hip stretch of Fairfax Avenue just south of Melrose Avenue, a crusty old gem, the Silent Movie Theatre, just got a spiffy makeover to full-fledged revival house.

Coupled with a small cafe and aggressively idiosyncratic programming, the Silent hopes to lure hard-core film buffs as well as the casual moviegoer who might be tempted as much by the camaraderie as the content. To give you an idea of just how eclectic the slate will be: The November and December lineups include nearly 100 films ranging from Michael Haneke's early TV movies to such schlocky '80s flicks as "Ninja III: The Domination" to some new wave films from Czechoslovakia. As before, silent films will be screened once a week, often accompanied by the theater's longtime organist, 96-year-old Bob Mitchell.

"I want the programming to be like a mix tape," says Hadrian Belove, who co-programs with the theater's co-owners, brothers Sammy and Dan Harkham, a.k.a. Cinefamily. "Like when you're trying to impress someone you have a crush on, you throw in a couple of things they know, but you also surprise them with things they've never heard."

As co-founder of independent video store CineFile, Belove had ample opportunity to develop his quirky curatorial sensibility. (Full disclosure: Before the L.A. Times, I worked at CineFile where Hadrian was my boss.) He'd tried several times to expand the store into a theatrical venture but abandoned the idea after several failures.

One fortuitous night at the New Beverly Cinema (at a double bill of "Autopsy" and "Eyeball"), Belove ran into Sammy Harkham. And that, as one much-quoted movie finale goes, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Harkham, along with his real estate developer brother Dan, had always intended to turn the Silent into a revival house. With Belove's expertise, they have.

The result is a comfy 158-seater that maintains the classic lines of the 1940s Art Deco theater. Short films will be screened before most features and there will be movie-music events, including Cut Chemist accompanied by a live video DJ (Dec. 5 and 6). A $25 monthly pass allows members to attend unlimited screenings. Even bathroom breaks have been accounted for: With speakers in the bathrooms, no more missing important plot twists while you're in the can.

"We've tried to think about every detail, to make everything as awesome as we can," says Harkham. "The question is, can we make it distinct and special enough?" You be the judge.

-- Elina.Shatkin@latimes.com

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THE CINEFAMILY AT THE SILENT MOVIE THEATRE

WHERE: 611 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles

WHEN: The theater officially reopens today.

PRICE: $10 per movie; $25 for a monthly pass

INFO: (323) 655-2520; www.silentmovietheatre.com

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