A Life At The Movies: Dan & Toby Talbot,The New Yorker & Other Scenes in The Dark

In the 1960’s and early 1970’s The New Yorker theater was THE repertory theater in New York City. Located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the New Yorker was a haven for film lovers. Patrons included Peter Bogdanovich who lived in the neighborhood. At eighteen years of age the ever forward Bodganovich asked for a job writing program notes. The theater became a temple for cinephiles, Vincent Canby, Jonas Mekas, Andrew Sarris, Stanley Kauffman, Manny Farber, photographers Diane Arbus and Richard Avedon were among the devotees. Early films included Von Strohiem’s “Foolish Wives” and “Nanook of the North” with live piano accompaniment. Foreign films from Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer, Chabrol were programmed as well as Hollywood directors like Hitchcock, Ford, Fuller, Hawks and Welles. Classic films with W.C. Fields, The Marx Brothers, Mae West, and Bogart were audience favorites.   

Toby Talbot’s book “The New Yorker Theater” is an interesting though somewhat rambling account of the Talbot’s adventures in running The New Yorker and other theaters (Cinema Studio and the current Lincoln Plaza Cinemas).

Dan Talbot founded New Yorker Films as a means to acquire foreign film titles to show at The New Yorker. His first acquisition was Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Before the Revolution.” He would soon after acquire the distribution rights to more than 400 other films including Godard’s “Breathless.”  

After the closing of the New Yorker, the Talbot’s opened up the Cinema Studio in 1977, located on 66th Street and Broadway (a Barnes & Noble is now there). The Talbot’s premiered such foreign films like “An American Friend”, “Perceval”, “The Marriage of Maria Braun” and “Shoah”. In 1981, the Talbots opened the current Lincoln Plaza Cinema on 63rd Street and Broadway continuing their tradition of introducing International and First Run Independent Cinema.

Below is an interview with Toby and Dan Talbot at The New School.