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Reviews

"The boarded-up movie theaters in Michael Putnam's Silent Screens wear their faded glamour like battered hats. Putnam's photographs, taken with an 8 by 10 view camera, are starkly formalistic: the boxy, Art Deco theaters are largely shot head-on and centrally placed in the frame, making the viewer conscious of minute variations in detail and texture. The stylized neon marquees that read 'Ritz,' 'Lux,' or 'Judy' contrast with the blank peeling facades, as if we can see the dream palace that once was and the shell it has become."

"Several years after The Last Picture Show, Larry McMurtry hoped for 'some present-day Walker Evans' to document the abandoned theaters of his youth, and [Michael] Putnam has answered his wish."

"Disused small-town and neighborhood movie theaters are to photographer Putnam what the decrepit churches and storefronts of the rural South were to Walker Evans: objects that, austerely photographed in their decline, can cause us to reflect... As you study Putnam's well-composed and well-lit photographs of abandoned theaters, a pang for the lost past inevitably afflicts you. Even more saddening is his record of conversions—theaters turned into evangelical churches, bookshops, banks, restaurants, a swimming pool."

"Haunting, edgy, black-and-white photos... accompanied by commentary on love, loss and change by Larry McMurty, Peter Bogdanovich, Andrew Sarris, Molly Haskell, Chester H. Liebs and John Hollander."

"A haunting portrait of the gradual decline of cinemas in small-town America. Putnam's book is a superb example of a documentary project's ability to arrest particular, concrete situations—and their attending emotional counterparts—and thereby illuminate the social and economic movements that engender them."

"Takes us back to the wonderful world of the small hometown theater—not as they were but what they have become. A wonderful chronicle of a time when twenty-five cents was the price of an afternoon of entertainment and a soda."

"Evocative enough to make a viewer nostalgic for places he has never been."

"These poignant and often distressing pictures of boarded-up neighborhood bijous speak volumes about main-street moviegoing in decades past, as opposed to the multiplex experience of today."

"Michael Putnam's strikingly beautiful photographs document American movie theaters and the passing of that era in American culture. They penetrate the barrier that traditionally separates significant aesthetic achievement and historical events. Such is the contribution, historically, of great documentary photography."

"The remnants of a bygone era are documented in Michael Putnam's Silent Screens. These poignant and often distressing pictures of boarded-up neighborhood bijous speak volumes about main-street moviegoing in decades past, as opposed to the multiplex experience of today."