Silent Film Era Comes to Life at Santa Barbara’s Arlington Theater

1928 Wonder Morton Theater Pipe Organ at the Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara, CA

LISTEN: Part 1 – Organist Scott FoppianoLISTEN: Part 2 – How the Organ Works
Once upon a time, during the silent film era, theaters employed live orchestras to accompany the films, creating all manner of moods and sound effects. But the advent of the theater pipe organ in the 1920’s spelled the end of live orchestral accompaniment. For a lot cheaper, one organ, and one organ player, could do it all. Once numbering in the thousands in theaters across the country, today these unique instruments are rare, and the Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara, CA is fortunate to have one of the most impressive and largest around. Scott Foppiano is an award winning theater organist and silent film accompanist, and this weekend he’ll be in Santa Barbara to play this instrument — a 1928 Wonder Morton Theater Pipe Organ, one of only five of its kind ever made. He’ll be accompanying the legendary 1922 silent film “Nosferatu”. Originally installed in the Loews Jersey City movie theater in Jersey City, NJ and in danger of becoming landfill in the 1980’s, the organ and its 2,000 or so pipes were rescued and restored (and are continuously maintained) by the Santa Barbara Theater Organ Society. It’s been housed at the Arlington Theater since 1988.

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