ATLANTIC CITY — A silent movie about pirates, accompanied by an organ, caught the attention of more than 200 people of all ages Thursday evening.

Day one of the Garden State Film Festival drew a sizeable audience to Boardwalk Hall for the screening of the 1926 film “The Black Pirate” starring Douglas Fairbanks.

Steven Ball provided musical accompaniment for the movie on the hall’s Kimball organ.

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“I don’t know what to expect,” said Jenn Lawson, 37, of Galloway Township, who attended Thursday’s show with her son, Quentin, 3, a fan of pirates. “I’m very excited.”

Sheila Hughes, of Atlantic City, said this was her first silent movie and she didn’t know exactly what to expect either.

As the movie started, the audience became engaged, watching intently as pirates landed ashore and contemplated a treasure map. The crowd laughed and clapped at various times throughout the film.

They laughed as a peg-legged pirate dug his wooden leg into the sand and stumbled over after it became stuck.

Curt Mangel, president of the historic organ restoration committee, said he was not surprised by the turnout.

Though only a quarter of advance tickets were sold, the seats filled up with walk-ins by showtime.

In an introduction to the audience, Mangel said the restoration work on the Boardwalk Hall organ gave them the experience of seeing the movie just like their ancestors did in the “old days.”

Mangel explained how theater palaces historically had used orchestras, but as a cost-savings tool chose to replace them with organs later on, which is how philharmonic orchestras came to be — to accommodate the musicians seeking jobs.

And eventually sound systems replaced both.

Dee Havel, of Atlantic City, said the experience was exactly what she anticipated. Though she had only previously seen silent films on TV, she said it was nice to see one on a big screen.

Lawson said she was impressed her 3-year-old son was paying attention during the screening — a very different experience from TV and movie theaters.

“It’s nice to see it the way it should be,” said Havel, who has been a history buff since high school. “It’s a great experience.”

Hughes said, after the experience, that though it took time to get used to she loved the audience enthusiasm and was impressed with the organist's about 90-minute performance.

The $15 ticket price from Thursday’s showing will go toward helping with a long-running project to restore Boardwalk Hall’s Midmer-Losh organ.

Contact Anjalee Khemlani:


@AnjKhem on Twitter

Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.

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