Halloween means a lot of things to a lot of people. I know some people who start to count down the days to Halloween, starting the day after Halloween. When you’re young, Halloween means loading up on candy. As you get older, Halloween is a perfect excuse to get dressed up and party. But no matter how old you are, there’s nothing better than watching a scary movie around this time of year.
When it comes to scary movies, we have a lot of ways to get our fixes these days. But there has been one very reliable source for weird, scary, bizarre, and totally “out there” films for over two decades. It’s Buffalo’s very own Off Beat Cinema. The hosted movie show, with syndication across the US, is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Did you know that Off Beat Cinema began as a local program, which initially aired on Halloween weekend 1993 with the broadcast of the late George Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead on Buffalo’s WKBW-TV? I didn’t.
So it’s apropos that, on Saturday October 27th, at midnight, Off Beat Cinema will present a newly restored print of Night Of The Living Dead on its current flagship station WBBZ-TV, Your Hometown MeTV Station, and national affiliates.
“Off Beat Cinema was a reaction to the insidious spread of infomercials and the yawning void of late night television,” said advertising executive James Gillan, who created the show with television producer John Di Sciullo. “Plus, we offer all of this in glorious black and white!”
Off Beat Cinema delivers the good, the bad, and the foreign, showcasing campy sci-fi classics as diverse as Teenagers from Outer Space to classic art films such as Rashomon; with silent film greats like Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush.
Gillan, the creator, writer and director, added, “Off Beat Cinema was designed 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 currently hosted by hep cat beatniks:
- “Bird The Painter” (artist/executive with Tobacco Free Coalition Tony Billoni)
- “The Mysterious Zelda” (actress & public relations practitioner Constance Caldwell)
- “Theodore” (photographer/writer and movie maven Jeffrey Roberts)
The episodes have featured far out films, along with an array of special guests, including a few star studded names such as Doc Severinsen, Lauren Bacall, the late Taylor Negron, William Shatner, Robby Takac and the Goo Goo Dolls, Toronto’s Tragically Hip, Jamestown’s 10,000 Maniacs, and Ani DiFranco.
Adding to the hip factor, the shows are set to background music performed by local experimental musician David Kane and his band Them Jazzbeards. There are so many reasons to tune into the show – from the characters to the music to the films themselves, Off Beat Cinema is a real Buffalo treasure that we happily share with the rest of the country. That’s part of the reason that the show’s producers are constantly flooded with fan mail and social media posts.
“The show clearly strikes a chord with the viewers,” said Di Sciullo, who produces the show. “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 ramblings!”
On its formations, DiSciullo said, “We wanted to create a show reminiscent of the late night film shows that every city had – the campy sci-fi low-budget films that made us beg our parents to allow us to stay up way past our bedtimes to watch. Plus, we are proud of our ability to showcase area artists and national guests integrated with the movies. We don’t offer running commentary during the movie. Instead, we let it roll for what it is.”
Lest you think that Off Beat Cinema will ever rest on its laurels, then know this – Moving forward, the producers are looking to:
- Host a film festival event at an area theater
- Host more remote telecasts from Comicon’s and Western New York destinations shot in HD
- Continue to post programs on digital platforms
That means that you will be hearing from Off beat Cinema via a number of different sources, but you will always be able to rely on the tried and true signals that are beamed straight to your brain by WBBZ.
Off Beat Cinema is broadcast Saturday at midnight on WBBZ-MeTV; WGBT-MyTV in Rochester; in Corning/Elmira on WJKP-MeTV at Midnight, then again at 2am on WYDC-TV BIG FOX in the Twin Tiers; and Saturday night at 10p.m. (Eastern) on the Retro Television Network of stations across the country.