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Tom B'hend (1917-1994) and Preston Kaufmann (1956-1998) were collectors of material related to motion picture theaters and theater organs. B'hend was a theater organ enthusiast and Kaufmann was an author and head of Showcase Publications. Accumulated by Tom B'hend from the 1940s onward, since 1972 the collection had been expanded and maintained by Kaufmann, who had made arrangements for its transfer to the library prior to his death in 1998.
The photograph series of the Tom B’hend and Preston Kaufmann collection spans from the late 1890s to circa 1990 (bulk 1900s-1960s) and encompasses 52 linear feet, representing nearly 5,000 American theaters. The collection consists of some 24,000 items, including approximately 15,000 photographic prints, 5,000 negatives, 3,000 postcards, and 500 transparencies.
The photographs document the history of motion picture exhibition throughout the United States. The material is arranged alphabetically by state, city, and theater name. While every state (and Washington, D.C.) is represented, coverage is particularly strong in major metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia.
Images depict movie theaters converted from opera houses, vaudeville theaters and retail facilities, in addition to thousands of purpose-built theaters including nickelodeons, movie palaces, neighborhood venues and drive-ins, in locations ranging from major cities to small towns. The images reveal many different aspects of theaters, including exteriors, marquees, front-of-house advertising, box offices, lobbies, concession stands, restrooms, auditoriums, organs, and projection booths. The work of many different architects is represented.
Most of the photographs were taken by professional photographers, and B'hend and Kaufmann themselves collected the images from both archives and private collections.
Bequest of the Preston Kaufmann Trust, 1998.
Liberty Theatre, Los Angeles, postcard