When an Uber driver asked Charles B. Moss Jr. what area of the film industry he worked in, Moss replied with “the boring part.” All I can say is that after picking up Magic in the Dark, I’m sure you’ll agree that’s a gross understatement. But you’ll have to see for yourself…
magic in the dark is more of a time capsule than a book, revealing stories and stories about the movie industry that you won’t believe have been ignored until now.
How did modern film come about and who were the main characters playing behind the scenes throughout? How can a multi-generational business stay relevant while maintaining the authenticity that made it successful in the first place? How has the heart of entertainment changed and how has it stood the test of time?
magic in the dark addresses all of these questions and more in the multigenerational story of Jewish immigrant B.S. Moss, his son Charles B. Moss, and finally Charles B. Moss Jr.
Written by Charles B. Moss Jr. (a director of the infamous Bow Tie Cinemas and a direct descendant of the ambitious BS Moss) and Jonathan Kay, this book begins its history at the turn of the 20th century. In less than 150 pages and supplemented by a collection of photographs, magic in the dark packs a punch by capturing the past, present, and future of the film industry: how it started, where it is now, and where it’s headed.
As the reader learns, when Moss answered “the boring part”, he was referring to the chain of cinemas his family had run for a century: when his family’s cinemas supported the war effort in early 1940s, when Times Square wasn’t so Disney-fied, or when only one theater less than an hour away was showing the iconic My Fair Lady.
It all started with a cloth sponge. No, but really. Before the movie scene was named after him, Benjamin Moss worked in the fabric supply business in New York City. But that was just the beginning.
When Moss made the leap into the exciting realm of film, he couldn’t have known he was building”one of the largest and most prestigious theater chains in the New York area”. Yet he did it.
Fast forward three generations, and Bow Tie Cinemas is still going strong, which is a feat in itself in the ever-changing world of entertainment. At one point, the authors share an adage about family money: the first generation earns it, the second spends it, and the third wastes it. While comical, this sentiment seems to ring true since only 30% of family businesses make it past the founder’s generation, and only 12% down to a third.
With that in mind, the ups and downs of this family’s history make all the more sense. magic in the dark guides the reader through the Moss family timeline, from founder to son and grandson. From when movies were just over $1.00, until they went to $5.00 (back then).
Many of your favorite classics, such as Alice in Wonderland (1951), Pinocchio (1950), South Pacific (1958) or Funny Girl (1968) – to name a few – are part of the history of Moss family. Their rise to film success paralleled the Golden Age of Broadway, as the Moss family’s Criterion Theater became home to blockbuster premiere after premiere.
(Bonus for logophiles, you’ll also learn the initial origins of now-common words like “blockbuster” and “nickelodeon.”)
Oh yes. It was another era. A film you’ll gladly want to snuggle up and immerse yourself with, as Moss guides you through the story of his family’s pioneering work in the film industry.
The moral of this story is as follows: there would have been no films without cinemas. Plain and simple.
The people who have tried their hand at storytelling and imagination, accepting a life outside the spotlight and continuing to persevere in the ever-changing landscape of entertainment – these are the people you’ll tip your hat to after reading Magic in the dark.
You may never have thought about the impact your Netflix subscription or Hulu account has on box offices across the world, or if so, you probably haven’t thought about it. After reading the adventures of this family, you will. Any movie buff will love this in-depth retelling of cinematic history, packed with all sorts of facts and figures for movie buffs, as well as some nostalgic tales.
Take a look at the real-world realities of the film industry. Humble beginnings. Navigate betting and business risks, political disputes, fluctuating real estate values, and the ever-looming threat of technological advancements. Foster a new appreciation for the fact that through it all, the film stands tall.
Discover the unsung heroes from the movies you loved then and the movies you love now. And the next time you buy a ticket and sit down with your bucket of popcorn, you’re sure to get a new appreciation for the movie theater experience.
magic in the dark is available for purchase at the following links:
Buy at: Sutherland House
Buy at: Amazon
Buy at: Barnes & Nobles