"Whenever I hear the word "cinema", I can't help thinking "hall" rather than "film"." Roland Barthes
Since 2003, I've been taking pictures of cinemas in city centres throughout the world. With the emergence of video and television, these cinemas are experiencing considerable changes. Some of them will have the financial capacity to invest in new formats, others will not. My work intends to appraise the world's cinemas at the very moment of these technological developments.
More than a dozen countries have already been documented : Marocco, Madagascar, Romania, Texas, London, India, Egypt, Dominican Republic, Cuba... Now it is about financing the last stage of the project : America needs to be a part of the project, and California, Hollywood being considered the cradle of cinema, is our next stop!
I use a large format view camera, which is very heavy and not easy to handle. It involves several stages that become rituals of a very specific ceremony : to install the camera, to choose meticulously the frame, to disappear under the black fabric, to adjust the focus, to place the film holders with the 4x5 inches negatives in the back of the Linhof. This ceremonial reinforces the dimension of legacy of the project and the tribute paid to the cinemas around the world.
There are over two thousand two hundred cinemas in the State of California. Each town, even the smallest, used to have a collective projection room. California, with its different landscapes and towns, provides a wide range of dark rooms: temples of the seventh art, drive-ins, Art-deco cinemas from the 1930s. Around 50 cinemas, out of 590 still in use in this state, will be photographed.
A cinema is a screen, a projection room and building governed by the laws of optics. The buildings also needed to stand out, to be visible from a far distance and attractive thanks to neon lights and appealing posters. I will not be photographing multiplex cinemas in shopping centres, but will be focus exclusively on buildings that date back to the golden age of cinema.
The journey will start in Los Angeles and will end in San Francisco, where you can find the Castro Theatre, a 1922 baroque cinema with more than 1400 seats, a centre of the homosexual community renovated for the Gus Van Sant film Milk. I will travel along the Pacific coast one way and will travel back to Los Angeles through the inland regions of Sacramento. Over 1600 miles have been traversed in search of historical Art Deco movie houses and drive-ins that are still in operation. These include the Mission Tiki of Montclair, in which Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dog’s music video was set.
Hollywood, the cradle of cinema
In Los Angeles I will photograph the temples of the seventh art. The Egyptian Theatre, the Chinese Theatre, the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, all the luxury cinemas that host the big ceremonies such as the Oscars. Some cinemas reconverted towards more lucrative purposes or disused cinemas with a remarkable architecture will also be part of the project, such as the Loyala in Los Angeles that has today become a medical complex although the frontage is intact.
Silver Screens is a major long-term project. The final objective is to produce a book, released by a renowned publisher, that will gather the images taken throughout the years. A big exhibition will be produced on that occasion to be shown in photography or cinema festivals.
In the words of curator Gabriel Bauret
I had the opportunity and good fortune to show Stephan Zaubitzer's work on these movie houses during the 2007 Trans-Photographiques Festival at the Tri Postal in Lille, whose theme was precisely the 7th Art (cinema). We have been working together ever since. At the time, Stephan’s project was already strongly cinema-oriented and his images embodied a magnificent voyage through the theaters’ most diverse architectural styles. Through it we discover often empty but never dehumanized locales, which recount cultures and milieus, and for which the cinema becomes simply a pretext. Initially the documentary aspects of these peculiar spaces, both architectural and non-architectural, were the driving force. Yet, the subject has gradually broadened to say much more. Stephan Zaubitzer must be permitted to continue this journey for which his passion has never faded and to go further still.