Chicago Film Archives sells vintage films this weekend

If you’re into collecting old TV shows and films, there’s a bonanza waiting for you.  Nancy Watrous’ Chicago Film Archives is having a monster sale this weekend of 180 16mm and 35mm reels of popular early TV shows, such as “Roots” and “Fat Albert” and odds and ends from its various collections.

The sale will be held at CFA’s offices at 329 W. 18th St., Friday, March 9, from 1-5 p.m. and Saturday, March 10, 11-1 p.m.

“This is the first time we’ve had a film sale,” says Watrous, CFA founder/producer of non-profit Chicago Film Archives, which she founded nine years ago upon being given the Chicago Public Library’s entire mid-century film archives and thus saving them from extinction. 

Since then, Watrous has been steadily expanding the collections, which are “getting more interesting in terms of valuable historical preserved films,” she says.

Watrous estimates that CFA has acquired 70 important collections since 2003, which add up to an impressive 13,000 individual items in the vault. 

Ruth Page dance archives latest collection

CFA’s latest collection, which Watrous calls “a glorious coup” of about 900 16mm items from the historic moving image collection of the Ruth Page dance foundation. They contain performances, rehearsals and interviews of ballet dancer Page’s career and dance center and the history of Midwest dance, from 1922 through the 1990s.

“We’re getting the collections organized and stabilized,” notes Watrous.  “We spent the last few years typing up workflow and working out a way we can fold these films into our electronic records and on our shelves, to make them quickly accessible.  We are currently in the process of creating an online collection database.”

CFA also has several significant professional collections, including work by legendary filmmakers the late Chuck Olin, filmmaker and teacher Don Klugman, and the socially active The Film Group, from 1965 to 1971, all made during Chicago’s explosive Golden Age of indie and experimental films.

By clearing out the older reels, Watrous estimates that they will salvage about 30 cubic feet of space to house the Ruth Page archives. 

The 180 films are being sold for minimal prices: $5 for faded films and $10 for those in good condition; the condition checked against titles on an Excel file. 

Buyers can have the discs transferred to disc on CFA premises for 20 cents a foot.