Phantom of the Warnors Theatre


Fresno’s historic Warnors Theatre began showing a variety of silent films on Sept. 26, 2013.

Story By: Lauren Baker, Art Director

Fresno’s historic Warnors Theatre is opening its doors to the public for its fallwinter lineup of silent movie showings  in hopes of “restoring culture and entertaining” the public.

Between Sept. 26 and  March 7, Warnor’s will be showing a variety of silent films accompanied by live music on its historic theater pipe organ by local entertainer Nate Butler, who will also be the performing as “Master of Ceremonies” for the events.

Butler is no stranger to silent film culture; he also hosts his own series at Revue in Tower District, but claims there’s something very special about seeing silent films at the Warnors Theater.

“The silent movies [are] special because with the classic decor and the authentic theater organ, viewers can step back into the past of the 1920s,” said Butler.

Butler is well known for his portrayal of Jim Morrison from the classic rock band The Doors in his tribute band “The Double-Doors,” as well as his appearance “The Beetles” and numerous other music related gigs.

The Warnors Theatre itself was built in 1928, “as part of the Pantages chain of silent movie houses,” Butler said. “In 1929 it was sold to the Warner Brothers studio, and became part of the chain of Warnors Theatres.

In the 1960s the spelling was chained from ‘Warners’ to ‘Warnors’ to avoid a copyright dispute.

The theater is now on the ‘National Registry of Historical Places.’”

Each film will also be introduced by a yet-to-be-announced “cinema culture expert” and the event will also showcase a costume contest.

Oct. 17 is slotted to show “Phantom of the Opera,” circa 1925. For those who are not familiar with the story, the general synopsis revolves around a disfigured composer who falls in love with a beautiful, young opera singer.

The film will be screened at 7 p.m. after a masquerade costume-contest starting at 6  p.m. when the doors open, and ending at 6:45 p.m.

Butler will not be master of ceremonies for this evening, and a replacement has yet to be announced.

Warnors ticketing prices vary upon how much you want to experience the event.

Single-showing tickets are $3 or $8 for a family. According to Warnors website, a $15 donation will get you a single pass for seven showings, $25 for a 2-series pass that’s good for seven showings, $35 for a family-pass good for seven showings, and a $100 donation  will get you the 8-series pass good for all seven showings.

Still upcoming on the Warnors silent movie calendar are as follows: “Hot Water” circa 1924 on Nov. 21, “Big Business” circa 1929 (including silent Christmas cartoons) and many more continuing in January through March.

“Hot Water” is a movie many young adults would enjoy and respond to as it is a comedy about married-life and in-law problems, a concept that is timeless and continuously relevant in films today.

Spoofs include a trolley-ride with a turkey, and a husband mistakenly slipping chloroform to his mother-in-law and thinking he has killed her.

“Big Business” is sure to be a hit among the audience as it stars Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, two very prominent and popular slapstick comedians of their time.

In this film, the comedy duo stars as two Christma tree salesmen who fall prey to their usual destructive antics with a homeowner.

If for no other reason beyond historical appreciation, one can certainly go and expect to be entertained.

This film series has something for everyone to enjoy, even those who have never seen a silent film before.

Don’t fall under the false illusion that a lack of audio means lack of quality.

“When we look at old silent movies carefully,” said Butler, “we can see how the ‘language’ of cinema has evolved.”