Dan Talbot, art house cinema legend, passed away last Friday, leaving behind a peerless legacy of film exhibition and distribution. The 91-year-old theater operator, along with his wife Toby, who survives him, profoundly shaped and nurtured the New York City film scene from 1960 onward, first through exhibitions and later through distribution as well. In their theaters they opened across the Upper West Side, the Talbots showcased the rare, the unusual, the foreign, and the new in cinema, expanding over the years into retrospectives and first-run films.
Mr. Talbot’s tastes, which shaped what was shown in his theaters, in turn shaped the taste of the New York public—and through New York, the taste of the American public. He made French New Waves films, German post-war film, unconventional auteur masterpieces, controversial documentaries, and the work of otherwise unknown artists available to New Yorkers for the price of a movie ticket, in years before the Internet made such gems more accessible. His art of unearthing these works and setting them where the New York audience could see them was widely appreciated, and such efforts were further strengthened by his and Toby’s distribution feats through New Yorker Films.
The Lincoln Plaza Cinema, which opened in 1981 and was the hub of much of Mr. Talbot’s work, is scheduled for closure at the end of this month—another ending which many mourn.
In addition to his important work in cinema, Mr. Talbot was also a supporter of LANDMARK WEST!, and in so many ways was an Upper West Side landmark himself—a source of enrichment and joy in many lives. He and his artistry will be greatly missed.