Before the Palm: Vintage Posters from the Cinema Zoo

Exhibits // Before the Palm: Vintage Posters from the Cinema Zoo

Jan 4 - Jan 28

Overview // Most people know of The Palm, Jim Dee’s solar run theater in San Luis Obispo. It is a much-loved fixture in downtown San Luis Obispo, and source of pride for the community. A movie theater dedicated to foreign, indie and documentary film. The screens at the The Palm have provided a welcoming alternative to the big Hollywood movies most other theaters show. But the The Palm is part of a much longer history. In 1973, Paul Karlen and Jim Dee stumbled upon some 16MM film catalogues intended for educational purposes and realized they could put together an evening of entertaining, eclectic, and for the time, rarely-seen cinema. For nearly three years they screened motion picture gems in what was known as the Carpenter’s Union Hall that housed the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre. For 75 cents, cinemaphiles could get their fill of animation, French New Wave Films, and classics such as the Blue Angel. And when there was a screening of Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal, the anty was upped, and the ticket price raised to a buck. The 16MM projectors were loaned from the County Schools and Cal Poly Audio Visual Department while the sound system was Jim Dee’s home stereo.

Before Facebook, tweets and texting, the great unifying factor for such a visual enterprise was posters. Cinema Zoo sported a clever logo featuring silent movie star Louis Brooks. Created by graphic artist Paul Karlen, the official title for the group (coined by Mr. Karlen) was the San Luis Obispo Zoopraxographic Society. The unpronounceable tongue-twisting name came from an old cinema term and was soon replaced by the much cooler CINEMA ZOO. Most of the hand-made, silk-screened posters were designed by Mr. Karlen, who would silk screen them late at night in the fledging printing studio of Jack Biesek.

The posters along with the borrowed projector will be on view with a Cinematic Timeline of the City of San Luis Obispo which outlines the rich history of the town’s movie houses over the last 100 years.

Details // First Gallery

A chance to mingle with the Zoo residents will take place at a reception on Friday, January 4, 2013, in conjunction with Art After Dark.