Last Updated: 5/18/16


The Secret Cinema Cavalcade of Commercials

at Manayunk's Venice Island Performing Arts & Recreation Center

Wednesday, May 25, 2016
8:00 pm
Admission: $8.00

Venice Island Performing Arts & Recreation Center
7 Lock Street
Philadelphia, PA 19127

On Wednesday, May 25, The Secret Cinema will bring a classic old program -- The Secret Cinema Cavalcade of Commercials -- to an exciting new venue, Manayunk's Venice Island Performing Arts & Recreation Center.

Cavalcade is a specially assembled evening of rare TV commercials from the '50s, '60s and '70s, both classic and obscure. The vintage views of toothpaste, pain reliever, cereal, cigarettes, automobiles, soft drinks, appliances, hair spray, cleansers and much more should leave the audience with a craving to consume -- or at least a strong urge to run to the bathroom.

Our last all-commercial program was presented nearly 13 years ago! This enhanced Cavalcade will include the best from past presentations, plus some never-shown reels.

Just a few highlights from the feature-length program are: A pre-stardom Cybill Shepherd flashing a smile for Ultra Brite, circa 1969; '70s TV icons Mr. Whipple (Charmin toilet paper) and Cora (Maxwell House coffee, played by screen great Margaret Hamilton); examples of the lost television contraband known as cigarette commercials (including Lee Marvin pitching Pall Mall's); and an informative minute from Carter's Little Liver Pills all about "The Miracle of Your Liver Bile."

Interspersed with the above will be forgotten public service announcements and a few TV spots for feature films. The entire program will be projected in 16mm film (not video) on a screen frighteningly larger than these ads were ever meant to be seen.

There will be one complete show at 8:00 pm. Admission is $8.00.

The Venice Island Performing Arts & Recreation Center is the best-kept secret in Manayunk. This 250-seat auditorium, with stadium seating and state-of-the art lighting and sound systems opened as a community theater in late 2014. Located steps off of Main Street, the facility has an on-site pay parking lot ($8 evening flat rate), and is close to street parking, public transportation, and the Schuylkill River Trail for cyclists.

Once you arrive you may use Venice Island's parking lot. The lot is managed through the Manayunk Development Corporation and not through the Venice Island Performing Arts Center. Pay at the kiosk, or take advantage of Manayunk's free street parking a short walk away

Google Maps will show different public transit options. Here's a link to getting to the show from City Hall using Septa. Change the starting point as needed...

Made to Persuade: Propaganda Films

at Fleisher Art Memorial

Saturday, June 4, 2016
8:00 pm
Admission: $8.00

Fleisher Art Memorial,
The Sanctuary
719 Catharine Street, Philadelphia
(215)922-3456, ext. 300

On Saturday, June 4, the Secret Cinema will present Made to Persuade: Propaganda Films, with a new program of rare short films which were intended to sell ideas.

While a media theorist could probably make a good case that most films (and certainly all of the sponsored films that we frequently showcase) have ideological agendas, for this screening we will mainly focus on films that strongly promote messages about patriotism, the military, and religion. Many of the shorts will be having their Secret Cinema debut in this program.

Made to Persuade: Propaganda Films will be presented in the beautiful Sanctuary of the Fleisher Art Memorial, in Philadelphia's Bella Vista neighborhood (just South of Center City). Free parking is available in the Fleisher's parking lot, just across the street.

There will be one complete show, starting at 8:00 pm. Admission is $8.00.

The final sequence of Made to Persuade... is still being assembled, but should include the following…

The Bond (1918) - Charlie Chaplin wrote, directed and starred in this comical pitch to sell war U.S. Liberty Bonds during World War I. It co-starred his regular players Edna Purviance and Albert Austin, as well as his half-brother Sydney.

The House I Live In (1945) - Frank Sinatra starred in this famous short promoting tolerance and respect of different religions and ethnicity's.

The American Way (1944) - As the ravages and sacrifices of World War II peaked, this film stressed that at home, democracy was still working -- by focusing on Americans both humble and famous (like actors Lewis Stone and Bob Hope) voting in the year's presidential election.

Our Cities Must Fight (1952) - Made at the height of Cold War paranoia, this Civil Defense reel attempts to encourage city dwellers to remain at home in case of enemy attack, and if needed, engage him in combat. "Have you got the guts?"

Wendell Willkie campaign films (1940) - Produced by the Republican National Committee, for Willkie's unsuccessful run against F.D.R. (We'll show different Willkie films than we've shown before!)

It's Everybody's War (1942) - Henry Fonda tells America how to help win World War II on the homefront, by showing it's impact on a typical small town.

My Japan (1945) - This incredible short was made to show that Japan was a much more formidable foe than many had assumed. It is narrated by a white actor in the role of a seemingly invincible Japanese military spokesman.

…plus much more!

About the Fleisher Art Memorial:
Founded in 1898, Fleisher is one of the country's oldest nonprofit community art schools. Fleisher's mission is to make art accessible to everyone, regardless of economic means, background, or artistic experience. In 1916, Fleisher acquired the former building of the Saint Martin's College for Indigent Boys on Christian Street, and in 1922, added the adjacent Romanesque church which had formerly been the Episcopal Church of the Evangelist. The space was converted to house Fleisher's private collections of paintings and sculptures, and he made it available to neighborhood residents day and night as a quiet place for contemplation and reflection. Fleisher serves over 16,000 annually, with 1,702 young people attending tuition-free classes and low-cost workshops, 3,820 adults taking free and low-cost classes and workshops, 358 children and youth being served in public schools and community centers throughout Southeast Philadelphia, and 8,430 visitors to the galleries annually.


  • Friday, June 24 - Sunday, June 26 @ Baltimore, MD (various locations): Cinema Ephemera: The Festival of Useful Film
  • Thursday, July 21 @ Bryn Mawr Film Institute: Old Films About Old Films About...

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    Channel 29 news piece on Secret Cinema from 1999!

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    Secret Cinema 1999 Annual Report

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