Dennis Nyback, film archivist and one-time owner of the historic Clinton Street Theater (CST), passed away in October after a long battle with cancer. He will be remembered at “Dada Dada Dada: A Tribute to Dennis Nyback,” Tuesday, November 15, 7 pm at the theater. Nyback introduced Portland to oddball film screenings, none of them more improvisational than “Dada Dada Dada,” a collection of classic surrealist films accompanied by a live audience-created musical soundtrack.
Nyback was best known for his traveling film shows, which toured across the country as well as in Europe and Asia. His strong belief in the preservation of analog film and audio led him to rescue reels that were headed to the dumpster and to hunt down obscure films in venues that ranged from Paris flea markets to eBay. His collection of features, cartoons and short subjects numbered in the thousands and in many cases were the only known print of a film.
In 1999, Nyback recruited his ex-wife, Beth Rozier, to finance the purchase of the CST for a mere $2,000. Nyback and Steve Tenhonen set to transform the theater, whose interior was in serious disrepair, needing, among other things, wiring and projection upgrades. Tenhonen said, “It was in such bad shape that the McMenamin brothers had refused to buy it.” They worked on a shoestring budget, doing most of the renovations themselves.
The CST is now owned by a collective and one of its members, Aaron Colter, is grateful to Nyback for his Herculean efforts to preserve the venue as a cinema. Of Nyback’s rescue of CST, Colter said, “His impact as its operator two decades later can’t be understated. We still hang a poster of the Kuchar Brothers festival behind the register–an event that wouldn’t have happened without him playing their films at the theater for years. There’s simply no way the CST would be the home for independent and odd cinema without his time at the helm. He remains an inspiration for what the venue can be with enough dedication and a unique imagination.”
Admirers are invited to gather for the celebratory event at 2522 SE Clinton St. to remember Nyback fondly.