My name is Laura Boyes, and I was the Film Curator at the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) in Raleigh, North Carolina, for twenty years.
Now, I introduce the Moviediva Film Series at the Carolina Theatre of Durham every other Wednesday night.
I shared a monthly Movies on the Radio program with Frank Stasio and Marsha Gordon on WUNC’s “The State of Things” for eight years. Here is the archive of shows.
For 18 years, I was a member of the selection committee for the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.
When I started this job (in the 20th century!) I discovered things had changed since I had last programmed films as Film Society Chairman at the University of Cincinnati from 1973-1975. Back then, you could make up a wish list of films and there were many companies that would rent them to you. Since the advent of home video formats DVD and now, Blu-Ray, on demand, cable movie networks like TCM, Netflix, DVR and so on, most of those companies are out of business, and the remaining ones struggle in a changing market. Audiences, comfortably at home with their Big TVs and Netflix membership need a pressing reason to leave the house and go out to see a film they know they can obtain elsewhere, may have seen once long ago, or one of which they have never heard. Since the COVID Pandemic, theaters are evaluating once more the future of cinema. But, it’s a delusion that the proliferation of formats means you can see anything you desire. Many films, for a myriad of reasons, are not available to the home viewer.
Fortunately, since I began my tenure at the NCMA in 1999, several companies have devoted themselves to reissuing new 35mm prints of some classic films, and archives have discovered that new prints are in demand by repertory film programs across the country. We are lucky to have the archival projection facilities that allow us access to rare prints from the Library of Congress, the UCLA Film Archive, the Museum of Modern Art Film Archive, the archive at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the UNC School of the Arts Film Archive and studio archives. Choosing carefully, it’s possible to program a challenging and enjoyable film series. Hollywood has almost entirely phased out 35mm for current films in favor of digital formats, a new challenge presents itself for the repertory programmer. New restorations may be DCP only, bypassing celluloid entirely. 35mm prints are now rare and valuable, and you must demonstrate to the archives that hold them that you are a trustworthy venue in order to screen them. When I left the NCMA, we had recently received our technology upgrade (but kept our 35mm projectors!) and were getting used to the benefits and limitations of the new world.
Film notes can make a huge difference, and I’ve enjoyed writing and giving introductory talks at the NCMA. There has been a lot of fascinating film writing, augmenting the early, nostalgia-oriented movie books that I began to use as a film programmer. Scholarly research, bringing in all aspects of popular culture and entertainment history, feminist and queer studies have all brought new points of view to movie writing. Academic texts are often impenetrable to the average reader, which is a shame, because sometimes there are great insights. My talks attempt to bridge both academic and more popular writing styles, although the older essays on the site are not as well footnoted as more recent ones. I intend to give credit where it is due!
A decade ago, there was relatively little on the Web about films that pre-dated the Web. No longer! Moviediva was originally a response to that need.
I believe there is nothing to compare to seeing a film with an audience in a theater, shown on the big screen. Or, as Francois Truffaut said:
“The most beautiful thing I have ever seen in a movie theater is to go down to the front and turn around, and look at all the uplifted faces, the light from the screen reflected upon them.”