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The Smith Blog

SMITH HISTORY BLOG: The Final Show

by Chris Woodworth

The future was uncertain for The Smith in 1977. Back taxes were owed to the city. The roof was massively leaking and causing water damage to the interior. Revenue was slim. Many thought the days were numbered for the theatre as the city eyed the parcel as a potential new parking lot. As time began running out for The Smith, one area filmmaker selected the opera house as the filming location for an original short film called The Final Show. At the time of the filming in the summer of 1977, Steve Hastings was the Manager of what was then called the Geneva Theatre (having dropped the Schine’s several years earlier). He documented the filming process in a scrapbook that he shared with The Smith. Hastings would go on to collaborate with four other men and dozens of other volunteers who were responsible for ultimately saving The Smith (stay tuned for a later blog post on those five local heroes!). But in 1977, the decaying Smith was the ideal site for a film about a dilapidated movie house facing imminent destruction.

Photograph of film crew at work in The Smith, June 1977 as part of the shooting of The Final Show, a film by Rochester filmmaker Joseph Janowicz. Included in Personal Scrapbook of Steve Hastings.

Photograph of film crew at work in The Smith, June 1977 as part of the shooting of The Final Show, a film by Rochester filmmaker Joseph Janowicz. Included in Personal Scrapbook of Steve Hastings.

According to Geneva Times writer Ronny Frishman, “When Joseph Janowicz chose the Geneva Theatre as the set for his film about a doomed moviehouse, he had no idea how appropriate a location he had found. The Seneca St. theatre, a garish but impressive old building too costly to maintain, is up for sale and its future uncertain” (“Art Imitates Life”). Part ghost story and part redemption tale, the premise of the short film is that an evil developer wants to purchase the aging movie house and in the process of fighting with its old caretaker, ends up killing the man. But the caretaker’s ghost has the final word as he haunts the facility and orchestrates the villain’s eventual death. At the end of the film, the theatre is once again filled with people. That group of people in the final moments of the film, seen filing into the theatre and visiting the concession stand, was comprised of friends of the filmmaker, friends of the owner of the Geneva Theatre (Lin Smeal), and area residents who volunteered their evening (Albert, Ritter). Steve Hastings even made a silent cameo as the person manning the concession stand!

Photograph of cast and crew at the end of shooting The Final Show, a film by Rochester filmmaker Joseph Janowicz. Included in Personal Scrapbook of Steve Hastings.

Photograph of cast and crew at the end of shooting The Final Show, a film by Rochester filmmaker Joseph Janowicz. Included in Personal Scrapbook of Steve Hastings.

Just as the movie house was ultimately saved in The Final Show, thanks to Hastings and his four collaborators The Smith Opera House also got a second chance at life. A little over a year after the shooting of The Final Show, Hastings organized a screening of the film at The Smith. As any film aficionado knows, much of what is filmed ends up on the cutting room floor. That meant many locals who volunteered as extras did not wind up in the final cut. However, as a tribute to their work that night, the screening in October 1978 also included all takes shot with local extras (Jones). Were YOU among the audience—real or imaginary—for The Final Show at The Smith?

Works Cited

Albert, William Patrick. “The Challenge of Filmmaking.” Penfield Post Republican, 30 June 1977. Included in Personal Scrapbook of Steve Hastings.

Frishman, Ronny. “Art Imitates Life.” Geneva Times, 7 June 1977. Included in Personal Scrapbook of Steve Hastings.

Jones, Jean. “Film Made Here to be Shown.”Finger Lakes Times, 10 October 1978. Included in Personal Scrapbook of Steve Hastings.

Ritter, Carol. “’Extra’ Role in Geneva Film Won’t Make Her a Star.” Democrat and Chronicle. 12 June 1977, p. 4B.