Ralph and Carol Secinaro are back behind the counter at the Barrington Movie Poster & Book Shop.
After a nearly yearlong hiatus for personal reasons, the couple will officially reopen their Clements Bridge Road emporium — a hub for the local film fanatic community — on Sept. 17.
“If you are driving by and the flag is out we are open,” Carol said in a post on the store’s Facebook page. “Please stop in.”
South Jersey cinephiles can’t wait.
“It’s such a treat to have a store like this,” the author and South Jersey film series curator Irv Slifkin, of Cherry Hill, says. “Collectors, and I am one of them, go online because they have to. But they would rather see things firsthand.”
Barrington Movie Posters is in a lively little cluster of antique stores where Clements Bridge Road crosses Atlantic Avenue in “downtown” Barrington. A former tailoring shop, it’s packed from floor to ceiling with posters, photos, postcards, lobby cards, and all sorts of marketing materials from Hollywood’s earliest days to more recent times.
The faces of the stars in the posters on display make for a festive atmosphere. The store is like a celebration of cinema, hosted by two enthusiasts who love to talk about the subject. “People come in here, and they get overwhelmed. They don’t know where to look first,” Carol says.
“What we sell are print items, including books — although I have picked up a few vinyl records,” says Ralph, a retired salesman and longtime student of film history who started buying other collectors’ inventories 35 years ago. “We don’t sell DVDs or videos of movies. What we sell are posters and other paper items. They’re all originals. Not reproductions.”
During my recent visit I learn not only about movies but about the evolution of movies and movie marketing. The inventory includes “press books,” the predecessor of press kits, and the beautifully lithographed or four-color printed posters that were common into the 1980s.
Think of that genuinely iconic image of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones by the late, great Philadelphia illustrator Richard Amsel. And who knew that Norman Rockwell did the posters for The Magnificent Ambersons and Song of Bernadette?
Ralph and Carol, a former buyer of children’s clothing at Wanamakers — the 1987 film flop Mannequin was shot there — live in Haddon Heights and have a grown daughter. They have had their online film poster business since 1998 and kept it going while the store was closed.
“I had the retail background and he had the knowledge,” says Carol, a South Philly native who saw movies at the Broadway Theater at Broad and Snyder. Ralph grew up going to the movies at the Century Theater on the White Horse Pike in Audubon and says he has been interested in silent films since he watched one on TV as a teenager.
“In silent films, [the performers are] expressing themselves without words,” he explains. “It’s facial expressions, gestures. It was the beginning of films, they were developing techniques, and the actors and actresses were bigger than life. Silent films were universal.”
Ralph segues into a story about Sunrise, the esteemed 1927 F.W. Murnau melodrama that’s his favorite film of all time. I’d never heard of it, but he could talk about the movie for hours, so I resolve to check it out later.
Carol says about 85 percent of their customers are male (“women are more interested in the books”), whose collecting divides neatly along generational lines. Older and younger people tend to seek posters or paraphernalia from their own movie-going era, although horror and sci-fi of any vintage is big among buyers of all ages. “What brings in the most money are the horror and sci-fi posters, especially the older ones,” says Ralph.
The couple carry the message of movie love. Carol speaks to local senior clubs, who tend to like old-movie trivia, and Ralph curates an annual film series (this year it’s film noir) for the Haddonfield Adult School. Loyal fans of the series include a woman who prepares individual bags of popcorn for the audience.
It seems that fans can relate to the passion of fellow fans, like the Secinaros.
“I’ve gone in the store and had hour-long conversations,” Wallen says. “There’s a community of like-minded people, who want to pass along [information] about things they like. It’s so rare these days, when so many conversations are angry.”
The store “connects people,” says Slifkin. “It makes them feel like they’re a part of something.”
So true. After my visit, I go on YouTube and find a strikingly high-quality copy of Sunrise.
It’s a thing of beauty.