Dale Kuntz has long been Milwaukee’s genial advocate of classic Hollywood. If Ted Turner had gotten wind of him, this charmingly garrulous gentleman might have been auditioned as a host on TCM, but instead he has remained a local phenomenon. Kuntz booked part of the classic film schedule at Bay View’s Gallery Cinema during the ’70s and was film curator at the Milwaukee Art Museum when it ran a regular movie series. He showed films at the Performing Arts Center and had his own segment on Channel 12’s “Dialing for Dollars” called “Movies’ Magic Moments.”
Lately, Kuntz has organized the Movie Time series at the Charles Allis Museum, every other Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., and a twice-yearly movie collectors’ show.
When did you become interested in film?
I’ve been going to movies since I was 5, and I’m one of the rare people where their vocation and avocation have merged. When I went to the movies I always wanted to sit in the front row—I wanted to be submerged in the experience. I used to go to the National Service [cinema supply house] on 11th and State and buy movie stills. I used to live across the street from the Park way Theater, whose manager gave me stills. I’ve been collecting memorabilia for many years.
Were you in college during the ’60s—a time when film societies and film courses proliferated?
I was in college in the ’50s. During that time I worked at the Wisconsin, Palace and Strand theaters—all of them Fox theaters. I guess I was a little ahead of my time. If I had gone to college in the ’60s, I could have been valedictorian with all the knowledge of film I picked up.
In the age of DVDs and Netflix, when most any movie can be owned or streamed, you’re at the Charles Allis, showing actual films on a screen with a motion picture projector…
People are always amazed to see real 16 mm film. Since I only have one projector, I stop at the end of each reel to rethread. Part of the attraction is seeing it on the big screen, the way movies should be seen. You get lost in them—caught up in them. Over the years I’ve developed a following for my introductions and the question-and-answer sessions afterward. I’m giving a history of film. We have posters from the movies in the lobby each night…
Do you sell popcorn?
Not anymore. But the Charles Allis has a caterer selling wine and beer and serving delicious appetizers.
Tell me about your movie memorabilia show.
The next one is Saturday, April 14, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Burnham Bowl. We have 20 dealers selling posters old and new, books, autographs, DVDs—a lot of really rare titles. The surprising thing is that what’s really collectible now is anything relating to the Universal horror films of the ’30s and ’40s. Dracula is worth more than Gone With the Wind.