Dear people of Los Angeles: I am in love with the Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo. And you should be, too. I went for the first time a few weeks ago, and it was a completely enchanting experience.
The Old Town Music Hall is run by two guys with a Wurlitzer organ, who have been operating out of their present location since 1968. The theatre is pretty tiny, and is painted red and decorated with figurines of Nipper, the RCA dog; velvet curtains; and sparkly chandeliers. Every weekend they do film screenings – sometimes talkies, sometimes silent films with Bill Field, the resident organist, masterfully providing the soundtrack, but always great old movies that really deserve to be seen. We went for a screening of Seventh Heaven, which was, admittedly, a pretty ridiculous movie, plot-wise (seriously, but we SAW the male lead die. In a war. Of gunshot wounds. He was seriously killed to death. And then suddenly he was alive, like the Terminator or something, and this was supposed to be a romantic drama, not a science fiction film), but it was absolutely worth seeing, as a piece of film history. Each screening at the Music Hall opens with a few tunes on the organ from Mr. Field (and the audience is encouraged to sing along! And who doesn’t love a singalong?) and a short film (we got to see a Laurel and Hardy short) before the main feature. And it’s only $8 which seems somehow like the most incredible deal, for, like, 3 hours of entertainment that prominently features live music.
I love this place because I love tiny little businesses run by people who love what they do and are sticking it out even if what they do is kind of on the anachronistic side. And I kind of want to give all of my money to the Old Town Music Hall because I love what they’re doing so very, very much, and, by the sounds of things, they can use all the financial support they can get. But I do need to eat and pay rent, so instead of giving them all of my money and worldly goods, I am advising you, dear readers, to head over to El Segundo some weekend to see some old movies, and support a dying art. If you’ve never seen a silent film with organ, it’s an absolute must if you’re at all interested in film history. It’s an amazing thing to see and hear: the organist’s job is to anticipate and highlight the emotional content of the film, and when it’s skillfully done, it can give silent movies an amazing sense of presence and immediacy.
The Old Town Music Hall is at 140 Richmond Street, El Segundo, 90245.
Mr. Wurlitzer image courtesy of Mike Fischer on flickr.