New film center, museum to open in Fort Lee, former movie capital of America

Before there was Hollywood, there was Fort Lee, New Jersey -- once the movie capital of America. Now, that history is being honored with a new film center and museum where it all began.

News 12 Staff

Oct 3, 2022, 4:27 PM

Updated 620 days ago

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Before there was Hollywood, there was Fort Lee, New Jersey -- once the movie capital of America. Now, that history is being honored with a new film center and museum where it all began.
The earliest films and the first movie stars were in Fort Lee, where nearly 20 film companies were at work producing the new medium of silent movies.
Elizabeth Skrabonja designed the exhibit at the Barrymore Film Center, its very first exhibit as the venue prepares to open.
The props, photos and artifacts explore the history of the legendary Barrymore family, going back to the early-1800s -- the ancestors of actress Drew Barrymore. They lived in Fort Lee and pioneered the fledgling movie business.
“They gave a lot of cred with their family name,” says Skrabonja. “The Barrymore name went back for centuries almost as actors."
The Barrymore Film Center's theater will screen many of those early movies. An organist will even play the score for silent movies. The exhibit will also look to the present and future of film.
Nelson Page is the center's executive director. He says there are plans to screen some 200 movies over the next few months alone, with artist talks and other live programming on stage, as well.
"I'm proud to say there's even a small part of myself here at the Barrymore Film Center,” says Page. “When I reported on its construction, I was invited to sign my name to one of the steel beams.  You can't see it anymore, of course. But I'll always be here, right over there, waiting in the wings.”
The center opens to the general public to view films and visit the museum Oct. 21.


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