Late February represents a collision of two significant American cultural events: President’s Day sales and the Academy Awards. Lacking any connections to auto dealers and with Oscar night looming on Sunday, we have opted to theme this week’s interviews around an alternative segment of the film world: venues that specialize in showing movies in repertory.

For moviegoers seeking sanctuary from ordinary multiplex fare, we’ve highlighted five local establishments you can trust to bring you films new and old, foreign and domestic that will both illuminate and educate.

2005_02_brucegoldstein_big.jpgVital Stats:

- Bruce Goldstein
- 52 years old
- Grew-up on Long Island; now lives in NoLiTa. "I can't stand that name. I would rather call it Little Italy. It's kind of an annex of SoHo now, though."
- Repertory Director, Film Forum and Partner, Rialto Pictures.

Bruce's World:

How long have you been at Film Forum, and how did you come to work there?
I've been in the business of repertory movies since 1970 when I was 18. I had run other repertory programs – I was co-director of the Thalia, I had a theater of my own up on the Cape, and I programmed the Carnegie Hall Cinema and the Bleecker Street. Karen Cooper, the director of [Film Forum], was having a hard time four-walling [the repertory screen], so she asked me to come run that section of it in ’86.

What do you think that a place like Film Forum offers the average Gotham filmgoer who always complains about the sterile multiplex but continue to go to it?
We're a multiplex, but we're a multiplex with heart, I hope. There's a difference. There are people who are programming the theaters and not just booking the theaters, and all these [repertory houses] have dedicated people who are passionate about films and not how much money they're going to make with the films. We want audiences, don't get me wrong. That equals money which equals a successful theater which equals the ability to program the theater the way you want to.

I think what's unique about Film Forum is our dual personality. We have very high standards as far as the print quality. It's not always possible in a series, although I do try. Part of my selection is based on what prints are available. I've developed this relationship with the studios to make us new prints if we request them. We’re kind of a showcase for new restorations. People follow our calendars all over the country and all over the world. And based on our screening a film, those prints will get booked elsewhere, so the studios know it's worth it.

But what I think is really unique about our screen is that I chose long ago -- in the beginning it wasn't so definite -- to keep it 100% dedicated to restorations and revivals, because there used to be revival theaters, not just repertory houses. I think it's important that there should be a screen like that, and that's what we do.

Do you and Karen coordinate the premiere and the rep sides?
Not at all. We're absolutely independent of each other. We don't confer. A lot of times, more often than not, everything I do is a surprise to her and vice versa. Sometimes it doesn't work out. For example I have a huge hit right now with Masculine Feminine, which is also a film I'm distributing by the way. And she's got another film in that's a huge hit called Downfall, so my film's leaving. I'd rather it had stayed, but …

How do you choose your programming. You just mentioned that you're distributing Masculine Feminine
My distribution company [Rialto Pictures] came out of the exhibition side. As an exhibitor at Film Forum, I always tried to get new prints of films, especially films that had not been around for a long time, that were classics but had fallen out of view. And you know films that are not in distribution lose their reputation. Masculine Feminine is a very good example.

So actually I went out and got the rights to films. Before that I had convinced people to pick-up films, like Umbrellas of Cherbourg, because I thought they should be in distribution. So I decided to do it myself, and the first film I went out to get was Contempt by [Jean-Luc] Godard. And that was a huge hit. Of the Godards, we also have Band of Outsiders and Woman is a Woman, but Masculine Feminine is my favorite by far of those four.

What is youre reasoning behind doing a week or two-week runs of one film, and then going into a mammoth series like the upcoming “Essential Westerns:1924-1962”?
It's like a vaudeville show in a way. Each calendar to me is its own entity. I try to keep those calendars very varied in taste. You can't run a theater like this with one point-of-view, one taste; although a lot of it is my personal taste, but I hope I have a fairly broad love of different things. I have prejudices against certain things, and I've tried them out, and they never work, maybe because I'm not behind them. I also find that it's harder to program more recent films, although we did very well with the Wong Kar-wai film recently.

The old style repertory which I used to do means changing the double-bill every day. But there are disadvantages to that, especially in the post-home video, post-DVD, Turner Classic Movies era. The disadvantage is if you're showing films every day, you can't economically convince anyone to make new prints. I found out early on that if I convinced a studio to make a print, I'd have to show the film at least a few days. We really pioneered the long run revival, and actually we're the only theater in the world really that does this on a regular basis. We have three to five new restorations or new prints showcased a calendar.

Do you decide you'd really love to do a revival of a film and go to the rights holders, or is do distributors and the studios decide they want to try something and come to you?
It's both. I often go after a film. In the beginning it was always me going to the studios saying please make a print of this, we can play it for a week, or sometimes two if I thought it really was a strong title. Now people are coming to me all the time with a lot of bad ideas, but also a lot of good ones. They're saying, "Our print of this is worn out. If we made a new print, would you show it for a week?" And it depends on the film. They'll send me a list of films, and I'll say, “Well this one will run for a week, this one not. I can give this one a couple of days in a series,” or something like that.

You mentioned DVDs and TCM. How do they affect your programming choices?
Pre-TCM I was the only theater really that was showing these films from the Turner library. I mean the really obscure ones. I would do these festivals of MGM silents and pre-Code MGM titles nobody was showing. And you know these prints hadn't been out for 20 years. Now they've been on TCM – they're no longer rare. That's kind of frustrating. It's harder and harder to do rare programming like that of early period, early talkies. I'm doing a series on early Paramount, though, and that's still untapped.

What do you think the average Film Forum patron is like? Are the majority die-hard cinephiles, or do you think there are people who are just sort of curious?
I used to program to die-hard cinephiles, and I realized it's not really the audience you have to go after. You have to go after the average person and give them kind of a basic repertoire. Also you have to program films that people enjoy. I used to be a little more academic, or played films for the sake of rarity, to please those cinephiles. No more. I do pepper the festivals with rare stuff to please that audience or do something like the Vitaphone programs which are a lot of fun, or this Baby Face event, which was just fabulously fun and every cinephile in New York tried to get in. It was really one of our most phenomenal one day films.

There's a reason [those films screen] just one day by the way. I got some angry letters saying how hard it was to get into that. "Why'd you only show it three times? You have other things for two weeks." And the simple reason is that these prints are archival, and these archives have very strict restrictions on their use. [Baby Face] was one of them that was from the Library of Congress.

Restrictions as to how long you can keep them or how many times you can run it through a projector?
Actually, the limit is two [showings] and I got special permission for three. These prints are very expensive. The prints in a movie theater, like a Loews Cineplex … for example a film like Million Dollar Baby, I'm not sure exactly, but they're probably no more than $1500 a print because they mass produce them. They make something like 3000, and the prints are fairly cheap. The print of Masculine Feminine, I don't mind telling you, is $6000. For a small company, that's a huge investment. And if you make five prints that's $30,000. If you make 10 it's $60,000. Even these new studio restorations, they are not mass-produced. They make one or two. A big studio like Warner Bros. or Sony, they may make like five. The audience is still fairly niche-y. Although now all the studios have arms that deal with classic films, and that's a great thing.

How far in advance do you do you plan your calendars?
It could be a year. As far as thinking about things, I've been thinking about stuff for 10 years. ["The Lubitsch Touch"] was one example. The Paramount festival I'm doing this summer is another. I've been thinking about that for 10 years at the very least. But as far as actually going out and doing the work, a big series like the Paramount one takes an enormous amount of research, and I'm watching about 50 to 60 movies from that period. A lot of them are really dull, but it's a great idea to get an overview of that era. I think I've been working on it for a good four or five months. And there's a lot of research involved as far as what prints are available.

Are there any other programs you’ve considered for a while but haven’t attempted yet because you think the audience may not be there yet?
The thing I hate hearing more than anything else … I'm planning a Lubitsch festival, and somebody says, "Oh but nobody remembers who Lubitsch was." Well that always bugged the shit out of me because our job is to make people know who Lubitsch was. The thing about a theater like ours, we're what's called a destination theater, meaning that people look to see what the theater is playing, not to see what film is playing then finding it's at that theater. Something like Downfall which has got another kind of publicity … they would find that people discover Film Forum through Downfall and then maybe some of them become members.

Why this year for the Oscar's First Year series?
It just came to me this year that it would be a good idea. I don't know if I had ever thought of it before. I just decided to do it this year. And also, I had it a different weekend, and I realized, Wait a minute, I can have it on Oscar weekend.

How did you decide on the films that you considered "essential" for the Noir and upcoming Western series?
I want to say one thing about the Western Series. One of the pitfalls of programming a series called "Essentials," which just started with Noir, is that you're bound to not be able to get a couple films. You might throw out some others, but I think the one major film that is conspicuously missing is Red River, and there's a reason for that: we had a dispute with the rights holder about something that's totally ridiculous, and we had to pull it at the last minute. I almost cancelled the whole series, but I decided there was enough good stuff in there.

Whenever I do a series I make lists. First I started with every Western I could think of. And then I have to determine whether there are prints, and good prints. And then I start whittling it down, and I also start viewing stuff. Sometimes films don't hold up -- they're a little disappointing seeing them again. So it's just a process of elimination. And then I have to combo them. Part of the fun of doing the festivals is comboing them and knowing that certain combinations work so well together, like Double Indemnity and Mildred Pierce.

Were there films that you wanted to include but there just wasn't space due to limited time for the series or limited slots and other more important movies already being in the series?
You know, in the Noir series I really thought it was right. I had a list of every noir film, and every film I wanted to show was there. On the Westerns, not so. There are two films because of this rights problem. It's like any good editing. The more you take out the better it gets. You actually strengthen the series by eliminating some maybe strong titles, by cutting a few things out.

You have to watch so many older films, do you get a chance to see much new cinema?
I try to keep up with the hot films, like I've seen Million Dollar Baby and Sideways. I watch more movies that I program than I ever did before because my memory of films is fading. And it's always great to watch movies you haven't seen in a long time -- to see them again with a fresh more sophisticated eye. I do try to watch a lot of old films that I'm programming, but even more than that, I prescreen prints for quality. We send things back all the time.

Can you even take a guess at how many films you watch a year?
It's not a record. It's a lot, but I know people who watch many more movies than I do. And I try to do other things in life.

Do you have a top 10 list of films or filmmakers ?
I'd have to say as far as filmmakers, it would be a tie, but even that's loaded. I'd have to say Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder. I love comedy directors. They're underrated, so I think they need a plug. But the way I would list my favorite films would be like, OK: Warner Bros. pre-Code films 1932-33, selected French films of the late 1930s early 40s; you know that kind of thing. I re-released Pepe Le Moko … French film noir would be another one, like Riffifi. The French New Wave: The 400 Blows, Breathless.…

The early Preston Sturges series you're doing …
Sturges you should put on my list of favorite directors.

What do you think that audiences will see in the films that are just his screenplays rather than the ones that he also directed?
You'll see Sturges kind of like those marbles that Michelangelo did that aren't quite finished.. You'll see the Sturges wit that you'll recognize from the films he directed trying to get out under someone else's hand. And there's a lot of films that are very very Sturgian, like Easy Living.

The reason I'm doing this series at this particular time is that ,The Power and the Glory was just restored by UCLA and 20th Century Fox. It's never been around in a complete version before, and it's a very important film in that many people consider it the prototype for at least the structure of Citizen Kane. [But] The Power and the Glory is not that strong on its own [so I put it in a series]. It's very interesting to see in context, but it's dramatically not so great that we're going to get audiences to come for five shows a day for a week.

Do you have any predictions for the Oscars this year?
No, I'm like the only person in the world who doesn't watch. I trust Million Dollar Baby will win best picture though.

Do you think it should?
No. I liked it to a degree, but it's in the great tradition of movies that probably shouldn't win the Oscar.

Ten things to know about Bruce:

Which city establishment sees more of your paycheck than you do?
Well there's a restaurant across from the theater I love called Bar Pitti, and I go there a lot. And it's reasonable with fabulous food. I eat there too much.

Personality Problem Solving: Would you consider your personality more hysterical or more obsessive, and have you changed since living in New York; has "New York" become a part of you?
I've been known to be hysterical; but I don't think I'm so hysterical anymore. I'm a little obsessive the way I do the programs, but I'm not obsessive in other things, I hope. For example, I'm not a collector like a lot of people who love movies. New York has always been a part of me, even before I moved here. I've been here, on and off, for 30 years.

NYC Confessional: Do you have a local guilty pleasure?
It's not a guilty pleasure, but you know what I really enjoy is going to Arthur Avenue in The Bronx and getting Italian food. It's not a guilty pleasure, but it's only on occasion.

When you just need to get away from it all, where is your favorite place in NYC to be alone, relish in solitude and find your earthly happiness? (We promise not to intrude.)
When I have to get away from it all, I just hole up in my apartment and watch old movies. And I like Bar Pitti. It's a nice place I like to relax in occasionally. It's a great little hang out. Everyone needs a little hang out.

What's one thing you've done (or regularly do) in NYC that you could not have conceived doing anywhere else?
Taking long, long walks. You go to other cities, and say, "Hell this is interesting architecture," and you notice it lasts for like two blocks. I'm exaggerating of course, but in New York you can still walk for miles and miles and never get bored.

Assuming that you're generally respectful of your fellow citizens, was there ever a time when you had to absolutely unleash your inner asshole to get satisfaction?
I wouldn't call me the asshole. It's the people from New Jersey who turn right on red who raise my gander without fail. Don't they read the signs coming in? It's not only from New Jersey, but they were the ones with the biggest stigma. The other day, I was in the walkpath right here on Mott St. or Mulberry, and this woman was about to make that turn right … I was in the path, and I raised my voice, "No turn right on red in New York City!" And she looked terrified, like I was going to snap or something. Normally I have to watch it because you have to be careful when you yell at drivers. They may get out and be seven feet tall.

Describe that low-low moment when you thought you just might have to leave NYC for good.
I can't imagine it frankly. I've never considered leaving Manhattan. I can't imagine anywhere else where I could do this kind of work for one thing. And second, it's so funny, you find yourself not doing anything. I could probably do what I do in New York anywhere in the world, but I've been other places doing it and I get crazy. I have to have the streets to walk into. It's weird, isn't it. There are weeks I don't go out at all, but it doesn't matter. It's got to be here I do nothing in.

Besides more square footage, what luxury would you most like to have in your apartment?
A swimming pool would be nice.

311: Help or hoopla? Have you ever put it to use?
Yes, it's hoopla. I remember thinking I smelled gas. It took me a long time to get anyone. And a noise complaint once. I guess it's handy. I don't know.

There are 8 Million stories in The Naked City. Tell us one, but try to keep it to a New York Minute.
I have two great celebrity stories that involve Film Forum, and I'll tell you them both. One was involving a film Karen programmed called Blast 'Em, and it was about a paparazzi named Victor Malafronte. A local New York guy -- I think he was famous for stalking celebrities, and they used to get court orders to keep him. And this guy who was the subject of the film used to hang out after every screening -- I think to pick-up women, I don't know.

There was one screening he did not show up at, and that was the screening that Madonna showed up. And I said, "This is such divine justice." She pulls up with bodyguards, and she's sitting in the back of the movie theater, and everyone's going, "You know, that's Madonna back there." And on the screen was this big fat drag queen who idolized Madonna. His stage name was Queer-Donna, and he says right into the camera, "I owe everything to Madonna. Thank you Madonna." And she's in the audience, and she says, "You're welcome!"

Film Forum is located at 209 W. Houston Street between 6th Avenue and Varick. The "Oscar's First Year" series featuring winners from the very first Academy Awards (1927-28) including the very first Best Picture winner Wings playing today and tomorrow along with Best Director/Best Actress/Best Adaptation winner Seventh Heaven. The "Essential Westerns: 1924-1962" series begins March 4 and runs through March 31, followed by "The Early Sturges: Preston Sturges Screenplays, 1930-39" from April 1-6. For more information about these and other programs on the repertory screen as well as what's playing on the Premiere screen (programmed by Karen Cooper, director of Film Forum, and Mike Maggiore, programmer and publicist), please visit their web site at

-- Interview by Aaron Dobbs and Lily Oei