“I was born in 1953 in Longview, Washington. The town of Yacolt, where we lived an hour and half away, did not have a hospital. It had a population under 300, one store, one tavern, no bank, and one stop sign. My mom, dad, sister Debbie and I lived on the family farm with my Finnish grandmother Fiina, and my Uncle Reino. The farm was 120 acres, half in hay fields and half in forest. Yacolt Creek ran right through it. It was spooky. The translation of the Indian name Yacolt is “haunted valley”.
Yacolt had terrible television reception and no movie theaters. My first exposure to a film projector was in the nearby town of Amboy when I was four. Family friends, the Wilsons, had a service station, house, and big side yard. In the summer time they would invite friends over to watch 16mm home movies and Castle shorts outside. The screen was white sheet hung on the far hedge.
When I was five and ready to attend school, we moved into Vancouver, Washington. Reino and Fiina stayed on the farm. For the rest of my childhood, I would spend the school year in town and the summer on the farm. In Vancouver I saw lots of early sound black and white films on television. Hollywood was fighting television’s encroachment on their audience, and only allowed television broadcast of movies they thought had no marketable value. By the age of six I was in love with classic gangster films.
My two other great loves as a child were reading and baseball. I adored Willie Mays. I idolized Lou Gerig. I was a terrible student. I was a good centerfielder. I wanted to be a lawyer. When I was fourteen, I skipped school every Friday, and spent the day planning bank robberies, reasoning that I should commit these crimes while I was still young enough to be charged as a juvenile. I was thrown off the football team for refusing to cut my hair. I spent a good deal of time in detention. I missed being elected Student Body President by six votes.
The summer after my freshman year in college, I was living on the farm and working as a janitor at Yacolt Elementary School. The night before I was to drive to Seattle to return to school, I went into Portland to see an Astaire/Rogers double feature at the Cine Mini. During the intermission between TOP HAT and SWING TIME, I noticed Randy Finley leaning against the lobby wall. Randy owned The Movie House in Seattle, my favorite revival theater.He asked me what I was doing, and when I told him I was driving to Seattle the next day to look for an apartment, he said. “You should rent the apartment upstairs above The Movie House.”
I had been living there a couple of weeks when Randy knocked on my door. He needed a projectionist. The theater was in a bind and I was the nearest body. I had two lessons in the projection booth, and on the third night was running SEVEN SAMURAI on my own.
Being a projectionist allowed me to work my way through college and have lots of time to read. I found that I loved showing movies to people. That’s what I still do. ” – Dennis Nyback
Mr. Nyback began his film career while in college at the University of Washington from 1972 through 1977. While in college, he worked for Randy Finley, founder of the Seven Gables Theater, Seattle’s pioneering art house movie chain. He also worked for the Seattle International Film Festival. In the early 1979 he bought his own 88 seat movie theater, the
Rosebud Movie Palace, where he only showed films from “Hollywood’s golden age.” In the late 1980’s he was the director of the Belltown Film Festival in the Jewel Box Theater. He opened the Pike Street Cinema in 1992, and began touring with his film programs in 1991, taking them to U. S. cities, as well as to Europe and Asia. He moved to New York in 1995 and openedthe Lighthouse Cinema. In 1999 he relocated to Portland, Oregon, to take over operation of the historic Clinton Street Theater. Dennis Nyback has been a guest of honor at the Stuttgart Trick-Film Animation Festival, the Oslo Underdog Animation Festival, The Iceland International Film Festival, Ex-ground Film Festival, Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival and at numerous theaters and film societies in the United States and Europe over the last 20 years. He has served on the jury of theInterfilm Film Festival in Berlin (2001) and theKinofilm Festival in Manchester, England (2000). In 2009 he was a guest and juror at the KLIK Animation Festival in Amsterdam.
Mr. Nyback has been interviewed and profiled in numerous publications in America including Movie Maker Magazine, The Village Voice, The New York Daily News, The New York Post, The Seattle Times, The Portland Oregonian, and The San Francisco Chronicle. In Europe he has been
profiled and interviewed dozens of times in many countries, in print and on international television and radio. MTV News Report featured Mr. Nyback in their 1998 report on Scopitones, and films from his archive were featured in MTV’s “The Pre-History of the Music Video” in 1999. Mr. Nyback has taught classes at Portland State University, The NW Film Study Center, and Marylhurst University, and guest lectured at UCLA, Reed College, the Experience Music Project in Seattle, The University of Washington, The Pratt Institute, Simon’s Rock College, The International Film School in Ebeltoft, Denmark, Copenhagen University, and others. Mr. Nyback’s film archive is currently housed at Marylhurst Univeristy. Mr. Nyback’s writings have appeared in The Seattle Times, and Othercinema. His essay Seattle Art and Grind was included in the recently published From the Arthouse to the Grindhouse by Scarecrow Press. His illustrated essay The Man With the Megaphone was recently included in the book The Best of LCD: The Art and Writing of WFMU – FM 91.1 He was primary story consultant in the 1999 production “Yours For A Song: The Women of Tin Pan Alley” which aired nationally on PBS.
He has been a featured artist at Pica’s TBA Festivel, Portland 2006, Chashama’s False Body Installation, NYC 2005, and the Filmfest Schleswig Hostein Augenweide, Kiel, Germany, 2010. He was commissioned to curate film programs in support of exhibits for Yerba Buena Center for Arts, San Francisco: Crumb/the Black Factory and William Pope L. 2007; TechnoCRAFT: Hackers, Modders, Fabbers, Tweakers and Design in the Age of Individuality, 2010; Most recently he was commissioned to curate a film program in support of the Feldman Gallery and Project Space exhibition Disorientalism: Ready Mix, PNCA, Portland, 2011. Mr. Nyback has one son, Alexander William. He is married and lives in Portland, Oregon.