The New Yorker Theater and Other Scenes from a Life at the Movies

Toby Talbot. Foreword by Martin Scorsese

Columbia University Press

The New Yorker Theater and Other Scenes from a Life at the Movies

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Pub Date: October 2009

ISBN: 9780231145664

400 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $26.95£23.00

Pub Date: October 2009

ISBN: 9780231519823

400 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $25.99£22.00

The New Yorker Theater and Other Scenes from a Life at the Movies

Toby Talbot. Foreword by Martin Scorsese

Columbia University Press

The nation didn't know it, but 1960 would change American film forever, and the revolution would occur nowhere near a Hollywood set. With the opening of the New Yorker Theater, a cinema located at the heart of Manhattan's Upper West Side, cutting-edge films from around the world were screened for an eager audience, including the city's most influential producers, directors, critics, and writers. Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Susan Sontag, Andrew Sarris, and Pauline Kael, among many others, would make the New Yorker their home, trusting in the owners' impeccable taste and incorporating much of what they viewed into their work.

In this irresistible memoir, Toby Talbot, co-owner and proud "matron" of the New Yorker Theater, reveals the story behind Manhattan's wild and wonderful affair with art-house film. With her husband Dan, Talbot showcased a range of eclectic films, introducing French New Wave and New German cinema, along with other groundbreaking genres and styles. As Vietnam protests and the struggle for civil rights raged outside, the Talbots also took the lead in distributing political films, such as Bernard Bertolucci's Before the Revolution, and documentaries, such as Shoah and Point of Order.

Talbot enhances her stories with selections from the New Yorker's essential archives, including program notes by Jack Kerouac, Jules Feiffer, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonas Mekas, Jack Gelber, and Harold Humes. These artifacts testify to the deeply engaged and collaborative spirit behind each showing, and they illuminate the myriad—and often entertaining—aspects of theater operation. All in all, Talbot's tales capture the highs and lows of a thrilling era in filmmaking.

Toby Talbot has brilliantly recorded and resurrected an exciting period in the cultural history of New York City and the world's cinema. In the process, she has provided a vivid portrait of her pioneering husband, Dan Talbot, and the array of film enthusiasts who assembled under his banner.

Andrew Sarris, author of The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968

The immense contribution to American culture of cinema repertory houses and art film distributors such as the New Yorker has been largely untold until now. 'If these walls could talk,' the saying goes, and now it has found its ideal spokesperson in Toby Talbot. With wit, warmth, and near total recall, Talbot has given us the liveliest history of a heroic age of movie exhibition, from revealing encounters with sublime filmmakers and film critics to the nitty gritty of running a movie theater (such as dealing with neighborhood pickpockets and trying to contain the problem of pigeon poop). I love this tender, articulate memoir, and I am sure all cinephiles will feel the same.

Phillip Lopate, author and film critic

'We sail forth into dreams,' Toby Talbot says in this luminous memoir of movie-exhibiting and movie-going in her and her husband Dan's personal movie-house around the corner from where I lived-when I wasn't living at the New Yorker Theater. This account of movie-magic, made not by filmmakers but by exhibitors, reminds us of the best of times during America's worst of times.

Jules Feiffer, Pulitizer Prize and Academy Award-winning cartoonist and animator

One of the pivotal theaters of world cinema was for a long time The New Yorker on the Upper West Side. Toby Talbot's book is a unique backstage insight into its history. Great reading!

Wim Wenders, award-winning filmmaker

This is a lively work that covers a lot of ground. There's a real voice in the writing, the sense of a living person talking colloquially, remembering, and reconstructing. Toby Talbot brings back a wonderful era in cinema history and New York moviegoing.

Morris Dickstein, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Will give readers with more than a casual interest in movies a look at some key people who influenced New Cinema.

Library Journal

[The New Yorker Theater] will certainly appeal to film buffs, to New Yorkers, and to celebrity watchers. And there are valuable materials for cinematic historians as well.

Richard Horwich, The East Hampton Star

A rare and valuable historical record of a special time.

James Monaco, Cineaste
Foreword by Martin Scorsese
Reel 1: The Theater
Genesis of the Theater
How the Theater Got Its Name
Opening Programs
A Family Store
Struggles and Obstacles of an Art House
Brief Encounter
Walking to Work
Monday Nights: Special Series
A Phone Call
Peter Bogdanovich
Events of 1968
Guest Books
Things That Bug an Exhibitor—and an Audience
Reel 2: Distribution
Bernardo Bertolucci
Jean-Luc Godard
Ousmane Sembene
Point of Order
New Yorker Films
Cinema Novo and Latin American Films
Alain Tanner
Jack Gelber
Nagisa Oshima
Satyajit Ray and Ismail Merchant
Jacques Tati
Yasujiro Ozu
Problems of Distribution
A Last Hurrah
Reel 3: On Location
New Yorker Bookstore
Box Office
Candy-Counter Tales
Reel 4: Film Critics
Manny Farber
Andrew Sarris
Pauline Kael
Vincent Canby
Reel 5: Festivals
Post-Toronto: 2001
Reel 6: Demolition
The End of New Yorker Films
Reel 7: Epilogue: An Ongoing Reel
Appendix 1: Program Notes (sample pages)
Appendix 2: American Theatrical Premieres at the Cinema Studio
Appendix 3: American Theatrical Premieres at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas
Guest Books/Sample Pages
Ledger from the New Yorker Theater (sample pages)
Web Features:
Toby Talbot discusses The New Yorker Theater and Other Scenes from a Life at the Movies

  • Read an article on the book from The Front Row, The New Yorker’s film blog.
  • From the Archives of the New Yorker Theater: read program notes from Terry Southern, Jonas Mekas, and others.
  • Read a review from the Wall Street Journal.
  • Listen to Toby and Dan Talbot on a 2006 episode of The Leonard Lopate Show

About the Author

Toby Talbot, a native New Yorker, has been an Upper Westsider since the 1950s. She and her husband Dan Talbot first owned and ran the New Yorker Theater in the 1960s, and then Manhattan's Cinema Studio and Metro Theater in the mid-1970s and early 1980s. They now own and run Lincoln Plaza Cinemas on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Talbot is the author of A Book About My Mother, Early Disorder, numerous childrens' books, and many translations, among them Jacobo Timerman's Prisoner Without A Name, Cell Without a Number. She has taught Spanish literature at Columbia College and New York University, was formerly the education editor of El Diario de Nueva York, and now teaches documentary film at the New School University in New York.