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Zipper Doc

Cinematographer Mark Schwartzbard filming at Chance Factory in Wichita, Kansas in 2011. Photo via Zipper Facebbok

It’s beyond cool that Amy Nicholson’s documentary “Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride” is traveling this weekend to a film festival in Wichita, Kansas, the home of the Zipper. Part of the film was shot at Chance Rides factory in Wichita, where the classic ride was invented in 1968 and the company’s elderly founder Harold Chance and his son Dick Chance were interviewed. Coney Island’s Zipper was number 34 of the 224 that were built.

The film will be screened at the Tallgrass Film Festival at 1:30pm on Friday, October 18, and at 2:30 pm on Saturday, October 19.

From ATZ’s review of the film when it premiered last year: “A small-time ride operator and his beloved carnival contraption become casualties in the battle over the future of Coney Island” is the film’s capsule description. Eddie Miranda, who worked on Coney Island’s rides since he was a boy, owned and operated the Zipper and Spider for a decade. In the doc, Eddie’s Zipper represents all of the mom-and-pops who were displaced by the real estate speculation that was set off by the Bloomberg administration’s plan to rezone Coney Island.”

Zipper has an upcoming screening at Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Wednesday, October 30th, 9:30pm and is also available on itunes.

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Related posts on ATZ…

September 22, 2013: Video of the Day: Coney Island Carnival (1945)

September 4, 2012: Exclusive: McCullough’s Kiddie Park Closing After 50 Years in Coney Island

July 19, 2011: Video of the Day: Let Us Now Praise Coney Island’s Zipper

April 12, 2010: Evicted by Thor, Coney Island’s Zipper Ride Thrills in Honduras

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Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride

Extended through August 29: The Documentary “Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride” at IFC Center in the West Village. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

In the waning days of summer, there are two things we suggest you put on your to-do list if you’re in the City. “Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride,” Amy Nicholson’s documentary about the rezoning of Coney Island and the City’s standoff with Thor Equities’ Joe Sitt, opened earlier this month at the IFC Center to great reviews. If you haven’t seen it yet, the film has been held over for matinee screenings through August 29. Or see it in LA, beginning August 30. We had a second look at the Coney Island doc after having reviewed the film when it opened at DOCFEST last year. As we wrote last November…

Eddie and his Zipper crew–Don, Joe, Larry and Jerry–are a likeable bunch of guys who cut up jackpots about how far back they go in Coney and with each other. Watching them disassemble the Zipper is heartbreaking, all the more so because in the film, this scene happens as the City Council votes “Aye” on the rezoning that will shrink the amusement zone and allow retail and high rises on the south side Surf Avenue. It’s poetic license because the vote was held in July 2009, two years after the Zipper had left Coney Island. But it is exactly right, because the land remained vacant all that time.

The Zipper site is presently part of Wonder Wheel Way and Scream Zone, which along with Luna Park was built after the City ended the stand-off with Joe Sitt shown in the film and bought 6.9 acres of his land for $95.6 million in November 2009. “It’s a vision offering major new opportunities for retailing and thousands of new housing units,” says Mayor Bloomberg at the City Hall press conference announcing the land deal and the City’s own redevelopment plan for Coney Island.

In the doc, Eddie’s Zipper represents all of the mom-and-pops who were displaced by the real estate speculation that was set off by the Bloomberg administration’s rezoning of Coney Island and the rebuilding that followed the City’s purchase of Thor’s land. The names of the businesses, including Batting Cage and Go Kart City, Shoot Out the Star, Shoot the Freak and Steve’s Grill House, are memorialized on the screen in the final credits.

During the Q & A after a recent screening, a couple said they knew the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel were protected because they’re landmarked, but they wanted to know if any other mom-and-pops had survived. They hadn’t been to Coney Island in four or five years!

Grandma's Predictions

Grandma’s Predictions, newly restored 90-year-old fortunetelling machine under the Wonder Wheel in Coney Island. May 12, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Go before the end of the summer and help keep the surviving old timers alive and thriving. The good ol’ Coney Island to-do list includes getting your fortune told for 50 cents by Grandma’s Predictions, a 90-year-old arcade machine beneath the 93-year-old Wonder Wheel; clams on the half shell at Paul’s Daughter, the 50-year-old Boardwalk restaurant and clam bar formerly known as Gregory and Paul’s; marshmallow treats and candy apples at the nearly 75-year-old Williams Candy, Coney’s last old school candy store; and a ride on Eldorado Auto Skooters, a 40-year-old disco palace of bumper cars whose motto is “Bump Your Ass Off.”

ATZ also recommends the Coney Island History Project’s exhibit of murals from the demolished Playland arcade; the 25-cents-a-dance “Miss Coney Island” doll and the row of games next door; the restored 1940s Mangels Shooting Gallery at Coney Island USA; Spook-A-Rama, Deno’s classic 1950s Pretzel dark ride renovated post-Sandy; and Ruby’s, Coney Island’s oldest bar, where part of the ceiling is made from 1920s Boardwalk wood, making it one of the only places where you can still walk “Under the Boardwalk.”

Paul's Daughter Coney Island

Clams on the Half-shell at Paul’s Daughter, Coney Island Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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May 7, 2013: Video of the Day: Restoration of Grandma’s Predictions

July 17, 2012: 50 Years on Coney Island Boardwalk for Paul & His Daughter

April 27, 2012: The Dancing Doll “Miss Coney Island” Speaks

March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

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Zipper

Larry posing with Freddie on the very last night of operation – Labor Day 2007. Freddie was a great loader and would spin the cars before the ride even started! Photo © Zipperfilm.com

Five years in the making, the long-awaited Coney documentary Zipper premiered Saturday at DOC NYC and screens again today at 3pm and 9:30pm. The theater is the IFC Center on 6th Avenue at West 3rd Street in Manhattan. The first time we met director Amy Nicholson was in Coney Island on September 9, 2007, the last day of Astroland, which later got a one-year reprieve from landlord Thor Equities. As Amy and cinematographer Jerry Risius loaded equipment into a car, she explained they were making a film featuring the Zipper. The ride had also been evicted by Thor and eventually they would film it being driven away.

“A small-time ride operator and his beloved carnival contraption become casualties in the battle over the future of Coney Island” is the film’s capsule description. Eddie Miranda, who worked on Coney Island’s rides since he was a boy, owned and operated the Zipper and Spider for a decade. In the doc, Eddie’s Zipper represents all of the mom-and-pops who were displaced by the real estate speculation that was set off by the Bloomberg administration’s plan to rezone Coney Island. The names of the businesses, including Batting Cage and Go Kart City, Shoot Out the Star, Shoot the Freak and Steve’s Grill House, are memorialized on the screen in the final credits.

Zipper Film

It was hard to take the Zipper apart because it hadn’t been disassembled since it was parked on that spot – almost 10 years. Photo © Zipperfilm.com

Eddie and his Zipper crew–Don, Joe, Larry and Jerry–are a likeable bunch of guys who cut up jackpots about how far back they go in Coney and with each other. Watching them disassemble the Zipper is heartbreaking, all the more so because in the film, this scene happens as the City Council votes “Aye” on the rezoning that will shrink the amusement zone and allow retail and high rises on the south side Surf Avenue. It’s poetic license because the vote was held in July 2009, two years after the Zipper had left Coney Island. But it is exactly right, because the land remained vacant all that time. The Zipper site is presently part of Wonder Wheel Way and Scream Zone, which along with Luna Park was built after the City ended the stand-off with Joe Sitt shown in the film and bought 6.9 acres of his land for $95.6 million in November 2009. “It’s a vision offering major new opportunities for retailing and thousands of new housing units,” says Mayor Bloomberg at the City Hall press conference announcing the land deal and the City’s own redevelopment plan for Coney Island.

The film does a great job of making the complex details of the Coney Island rezoning easy to comprehend with snappy graphics, newspaper headlines (“Rezonie Baloney” is a fave), and TV clips of reporters covering the Coney beat. Interviews with Amanda Burden, Director of the New York City Department of City Planning, Coney Island’s City Councilman Domenic Recchia Jr., and Thor Equities CEO Joe Sitt speak louder than words. One of the most effectively edited sequences has the trio taking turns saying what kinds of retail the new zoning would allow them to bring to Coney Island. Suggestions range from entertainment franchises like Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Howie’s Game Shack, and Build-A-Bear Workshop (Sitt) to Williams-Sonoma (Recchia), Gap and Duane Reade (Burden). As we said in a previous post: Ugh. Sounds like Any Vacation Spot, USA. Cut to Zipper crew members Joe and Don, who look stunned. “They could care less about the amusement business, about Zippers,” says Don.

Zipper film

From the wall in Harold Chance’s office: homage to the greatest ride ever, the Zipper. Photo © Zipperfilm.com

But the film makes viewers care about Zippers. It takes us to Chance Rides factory in Wichita, where the classic ride was invented in 1968 and the company’s elderly founder Harold Chance is interviewed. We learn there were only 224 built and Coney Island’s Zipper is number 34. Seeing the Zipper for the first time since it left Coney Island for a seaside carnival in Honduras, tears welled up. They have our Zipper! At the same time, we felt happy to see it still alive and thrilling riders. The irony is that the three members of the Zipper crew who managed to find another place to work in Coney Island are about to lose their jobs again. On the weekend of Zipper’s premiere, they were busy dismantling the rides in McCullough’s Kiddie Park since it has closed forever after 50 years. The family that owns the park wasn’t able to come to an agreement on extending the lease with property owner Thor Equities.

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Related posts on ATZ…

September 4, 2012: Exclusive: McCullough’s Kiddie Park Closing After 50 Years in Coney Island

July 19, 2011: Video of the Day: Let Us Now Praise Coney Island’s Zipper

April 12, 2010: Evicted by Thor, Coney Island’s Zipper Ride Thrills in Honduras

March 3, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

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