Explore the city’s film history at the Newhallywood Film Festival

City of Santa Clarita City Hall. Cory Rubin/The Signal
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By Mayor Cameron Smyth

The Santa Clarita Valley holds a special place in cinematic history, and movies from every genre have been filmed in our neighborhoods, on our streets and throughout our thousands of acres of open space. From silent westerns starring William S. Hart to this year’s Oscar nominee for Best Picture “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood,” Santa Clarita’s roots are intertwined with those that have created defining pieces of entertainment enjoyed by people worldwide for generations.

Residents and visitors alike can explore the early years of filming in Santa Clarita at the inaugural Newhallywood Silent Film Festival, which is scheduled for Feb. 14-16.

This festival will give attendees the unique opportunity to see not only some of the classic silent films made in our City but also some props, costumes and memorabilia from the time period that are rarely available for public viewing.

The festival begins on Valentine’s Day with a pair of special events you won’t want to miss. That Friday morning at 10 a.m., ticketholders can hop aboard the “Bustour” Keaton, which will take attendees to dozens of sites in and around Hollywood that held prominent roles in the history of silent filmmaking. 

You’ll see places like Edendale, where Fatty Arbuckle, Mable Normand and Charlie Chaplin made their first films, as well as Poverty Row, where hometown hero William S. Hart’s old studio still stands today. Tickets for “Bustour” Keaton are $55 per person, and include the bus tour and lunch.

On Valentine’s night at 7 p.m., celebrate the 100th wedding anniversary of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. — Hollywood’s first “power couple” — with a romantic dinner at William S. Hart Park. The dinner will also include a screening of the technicolor film “The Black Pirate,” starring Douglas Fairbanks.

Attendees will get a sneak peek at the festival’s pop-up exhibit that will be on display throughout the weekend, featuring timeless Fairbanks and Pickford artifacts. Tickets for the Valentine’s Day Dinner are $60 per person or $100 per couple.

Tickets for both special events are available for purchase by visiting NewhallywoodFilmFest.org.

The main Newhallywood Film Festival will take place Saturday, Feb. 15 and Sunday, Feb. 16, with the screening of more than a dozen films at venues throughout Newhall, including The MAIN and the Newhall Family Theater for the Performing Arts.

See all-time classics such as “Singin’ in the Rain,” “The Mark of Zorro” and “Ramona,” and be sure to visit the William S. Hart Museum inside Hart Park to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how silent film stars lived.

Also at Hart Park, families won’t want to leave without a stop at Heritage Junction. The Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society is transforming the Saugus Train Station into “Slapstick Junction” and will screen short comedies in a nickelodeon-type atmosphere.

On Saturday and Sunday, admission to the screenings around Newhall is completely free! I hope you will take this opportunity to transport yourself to the Santa Clarita Valley’s silent film days and discover why we call the area Newhallywood.

To see a full screening schedule and location information, please visit NewhallywoodFilmFest.org.

Mayor Cameron Smyth is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council and can be reached at csmyth@
santa-clarita.com. The views expressed in her column are those of the city and do not necessarily reflect those of The Signal. 

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