Written by Wendy Kaplan, firstname.lastname@example.org Saturday, 16 November 2013 00:00
Long regarded as a premium venue for screening first-run independent and commercial movies, the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington holds monthly screenings of vintage rock n’ roll recordings, attracting members from deep in Nassau County — including the Plainview-Old Bethpage area.
Shirley Ruby, an artist and designer who lives in Old Bethpage, is a member of the Centre and often takes to visiting in order to gain some inspiration. Most stimulating, she believes, is the monthly “Rock Legends Live;” screening of film and video containing vintage musical peformances, started by Bill Shelley in 2009.
“They bring back a lot of memories,” said Ruby. “My husband and I really enjoy going to the shows. Mr. Shelley serves a very important role in the community.”
Shelley started his monthly rock shows after asking co-founder Charlotte Sky and her son Dylan, the Centre's current director, if he could screen some vintage performances by the Beatles, back in 2009. Both Dylan and his father, the late Vic Skolnick, enthusiastically agreed to screen Shelley’s film. The first show was immediately sold out and was followed by a second sold-out screening. The success of these programs, which were the result of approximately 50 hours of screening, research and editing, prompted the Skolnicks to ask Shelley to bring his vast library of performance films to the cinema regularly.
He’s been digging up old musical treasures for his monthly series ever since.
Shelley has rocked a long career in the film industry, having worked for film companies, post-production companies and advertising agencies. During his career, he witnessed vast changes in the film industry including the switch from film to digital media. During the late 1970s and mid-1980s, the industry utilized film and videotape for recording material. But technology changed and much of the film became obsolote. Many collections were headed for the trash bin before Shelley intervened.
He seized an opportunity and asked for these entertainment materials that were to be thrown out. According to Shelley, “they were his to take for the asking.” Thus, he acquired a library of irreplaceable reels from estate discards and closed theaters, as well as purchase in antique shops. These included early silent films and their outtakes, as well as jazz selections and clips of legendary rock-and-roll tapings.
Shelley kept the entertainment material that he acquired in his home on Long Island. His mother archived his collection of films, pictures and posters, and he added reels of film to create a film library as well. He began what would eventually become his “Rock Legends Live” career in Huntington by showing films in his basement to friends. These sessions included tapes of Jimi Hendrix and proved to be immensely popular.
Among the most successful of the monthly programs at the Centre have been screenings of material from local artists, particularly Billy Joel and Harry Chapin, even attracting Sandy and Josh Chapin. Harry Chapin’s wife and son attended the sold-out October program, featuring a film followed by a question and answer session and the collection of food for Long Island Cares, the Harry Chapin Food Bank.
Other classic rock programs screened at the Centre include Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones and Leonard Cohen — all of which sold out as well. Shelley said he “tries to keep his selections of materials as balanced as possible, representing American, British, male and female artists.”
He also emphasized that the purpose of sharing rare and vintageclips from his collection is to “stress how these were almost lost forever and that in some cases little or no film clips of some performers seem to exist,” he said. “My programs are meant to educate people, to preserve the past and especially to preserve film.”
Ira Kaplan, another Cinema Arts member from Plainview, said Shelley’s programs are the highlight of every month and a must for music fanatics.
“I have been going to Bill Shelley’s programs since the inception and look forward to going every month,” he said.
Usually held on the third Tuesday of the month at 7:30 p.m., a new session is planned with a whole new slate of legends. November’s program will feature “The British Invasion – Part 2” and will include rare performances from the 1960s and 1970s.
Cinema Arts Centre is located at 423 Park Ave., in Huntington. For more information, call 631-423-7611 or visit www.cinemaartscentre.org.