Think of it as a kind of private party for film archivists.
Each year, members of the Association of Moving Image Archivists get together for Archival Screening Night.
The event — during which rare or unusual films or film excerpts lasting no longer than six minutes are shown — always is a highlight for the organization, which consists of just fewer than 1,000 members from 29 countries. Included in its ranks are film archivists, professors, students and plain old movie buffs.
“It's archivists showing off what they have in their archive,” said AMIA president Dennis Doros, also the co-founder of the distributor Milestone Films. “It can be strange; it can be funny; it can be moving; it can be bizarre.”
There is just one catch: The event is not intended for the general public.
“It has always been closed to the public because we would show an unknown Woody Allen film or we would show something that is not allowed to be seen outside of a studio,” Doros said.
Last year, though, AMIA threw open the doors to a version of Archival Screening Night by creating a traveling version for venues across the country. The program will be presented Thursday at the Wexner Center for the Arts.
To enable the public presentation, Doros said, “Everybody can submit, as always, but they have to own the rights or they have to assure us that the rights are public domain.”
To put together the show, organization leaders solicited submissions from notable film archives.
“I wanted it to be international, and I wanted it to show the width and breadth of the archives around the world that belong to AMIA,” Doros said.
For example, the National Archives and Records Administration contributed “Curious Alice” (1971), a cartoon that uses the story of “Alice in Wonderland” to caution against drug use; the Smithsonian Institution Archives offered 1968 footage of a brass band playing in New Orleans' French Quarter.
“It's showing off your archives with something you found or something you've restored,” Doros said. “It just has to be wonderful.”
One of Doros' personal favorites is French director Louis Feuillade's 1913 silent comedy “Bout-de-Zan et le crocodile,” starring Rene Poyen as a mischievous young lad, from the Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam.
“Very few people understand tinting and toning and hand-coloring, and that film has everything,” Doros said. “People will look at it and say, 'What the hell?'”
No less notable is a trailer for a now-lost movie made in Thailand, from the Thai Film Archive, as well as footage of singer and bandleader Cab Calloway, from the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
“It was donated by his wife,” Doros said. “This was from Cab Calloway's own personal collection.”
Such footage leads Doros to compare the job of film archivist to that of time traveler.
“You can be working on a film from 1907 France and the next day you'll be working in 1990 Italy,” he said. “It's just an incredible education.”
Yet there is nothing dry or stuffy about Archival Screening Night.
“We promise a fun time,” Doros said. “You will be laughing; you will be astonished. ... I mean, half of these things I had never heard of before.”