On Saturday at midnight, the nationally syndicated "Off Beat Cinema" celebrates its 20th anniversary on the air. The hosted movie show will present a newly restored print of "Night Of The Living Dead" on flagship station WBBZ-TV.
"Off Beat Cinema" began as a local program Halloween weekend 1993 with the broadcast of George Romero's "Night Of The Living Dead" on Buffalo's WKBW-TV. After a few years of gaining a local cult following, the program went national in January 1997, and moved to independent station WBBZ-TV in August of 2012. Currently, "Off Beat Cinema" is broadcast Saturday at midnight on WBBZ-TV; WGBT-TV in Rochester; WJKP-TV in Corning; and both Saturday and Sunday night on the Retro Television Network of stations, which currently stands at 88.
Paragon Advertising principal James Gillan created the show with television executive John Di Sciullo. "Off Beat Cinema" was "a reaction to the insidious spread of infomercials and the yawning void of late night television."
Gillan, the creator, writer and director, said, " 'Off Beat Cinema' was designed to provide viewers with an alternative to the influx of vacuous late night programs. Additionally, "Off Beat Cinema" was intended to provide a forum for films that are not regularly shown on television, and in many cases that are not even available on video. There's an enormous cache of films that an entire generation grew up watching that are otherwise unavailable. We wanted to capture that nostalgia as well as introduce these films to today's viewers."
Set in the fictitious Hungry Ear Coffee House, "Off Beat Cinema" is hosted by the hepcat beatniks - "Maxwell Truth" (comedian/actor "Airborne" Eddy Dobosiewicz); "Bird The Painter" (artist/event planner Tony Billoni); and "The Mysterious Zelda" (actress Constance McEwen) - plus an eclectic mix of weekly guests. Over the years, "Off Beat Cinema" has hosted celebrities including Doc Severinsen, Lauren Bacall, Taylor Negron, William Shatner, Butch Patrick (Eddy Munster); Buffalo's Robby Takac and the Goo Goo Dolls, Toronto's Barenaked Ladies, Jamestown's 10,000 Maniacs, and Ani DiFranco, to name a few.
The background music for the show is performed by local musicians David Kane's Them Jazzbeards.
"Off Beat Cinema" has brought its viewers the best of "the good, the bad, and the foreign." Showcasing campy sci-fi classics such as "Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers," "Teenagers from Outer Space" and "Fantastic Planet"; classic "art films" such as "The Seventh Seal"; plus silent film greats such as "Nosferatu," "Metropolis" and "Charlie Chaplin's The Gold Rush."
Gillan said of the show's successful formula, "We wanted to create a show reminiscent of the late night film shows of the '70s - the campy sci-fi, the low-budget man-in-a-bad-rubber-suit horror films, the monster of the week films - all those films that made us, as kids, beg our parents to allow us to stay up way past our bedtimes to watch."
The show's popularity can be measured by the fan mail that pours in week after week. Di Sciullo, the show's producer, said, "The show clearly strikes a chord with the viewers. How many shows have you watched that inspired you enough to write a letter? Yet that's exactly what our viewers do. We receive hundreds of pieces of mail from all across the continent. Comments about films we have aired, requests for other films, original poetry, and caffeine-induced philosophic rambling - we get it all - and we love it."
Moving forward for the 20th anniversary season, "Off Beat Cinema" is planning a film festival at an area theater; more remote telecasts shot in HD; and full studio audience participation shows from the WBBZ-TV studio, including "Sci-Fi" nights.
Viewers can connect with "Off Beat Cinema" online at www.offbeatcinema.com and "Like" "Off Beat Cinema" on Facebook. You can follow the show on Twitter @OffBCinema. "Off Beat Cinema" also has a channel on You Tube and will be posting "Retro" moments from the past two decades of shows.
WBBZ is seen throughout Western New York. For more information, visit www.wbbz.tv.