Silent Movie at The Lerner to Feature Restored Organ

March 05, 2013

For the first time in decades, the Lerner Theatre’s newly restored pipe organ will accompany a silent film.

General manager David Smith has been eagerly awaiting a chance to show a silent movie at the theater ever since the organ’s restoration was completed in September. The 1,127-pipe organ is one of three Kimball organs still housed in its original theater.

“It’s been referred to as a church organ with a sense of humor,” Smith said. “The first time I heard it played, I got visible goosebumps because you’ve got this huge theater with 1,700 seats, and the sound just fills the space.”

The theater will host a special viewing of “The General” with organist Clark Wilson performing live as the film plays on screen at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 8. “The General,” a classic comedy starring Buster Keaton, was released in 1926, just two years after the Lerner Theatre opened. Wilson, an accomplished musician, will play a concert before the movie begins.

“He’s done scores for dozens of different silent movies,” Smith noted. “He’s the go-to guy when it comes to putting sound to silent movies.”

Smith said the Lerner’s organ, which made its debut at a concert in October, is the final piece of the puzzle for the theater’s renovation.

“Theaters like this are not complete until they have an organ in place because these movie palaces were built for that form of entertainment,” Smith said.