Steven Kovacs is a movie man. A Harvard PhD, he co-produced the Oscar-nominated short doc Arthur and Lillie in 1975. He also produced, wrote, and directed a number of other features and is now a professor of cinema studies at San Francisco State. KALW’s Ben Trefny went on a drive with Kovacs to talk about film history as set in San Francisco.
TREFNY: Let’s go back to Arthur and Lillie for a moment. Tell me about that movie that you went to the Academy Awards for.
Take a walk down any major street in San Francisco and you’ll see them: dead movie theaters. Corpses. It’s hard not to shudder when you walk past one – the doors locked and covered with plywood, the entrance collecting tin cans and old newspapers. The theater’s once grand marquee, now deprived of the electricity needed to power the lights, seems gaudy and hubristic. These are dark times for movie theaters.
You probably know Jim Riggs best by the back of his head. He's often seen rising out of the stage in Bay Area movie theaters playing the organ. He is among a handful of people in the world who can tame the Mighty Wurlitzer, a massive instrument with eighteen hundred pipes, 244 keys, and 32 foot pedals. April Dembosky sat down with Riggs at the Paramount Theater in Oakland to talk about the history of the organ, his technique, and what it's like being an anonymous celebrity.
DEMBOSKY: Can you explain the anatomy of the organ? It seems very complicated.