An update to The Silent Movie Theater saga — Brain Dead

| June 30, 2022 | 0 Comments

MUCH MORE THAN A CRIME SCENE. Brain Dead Studios has evolved past its notorious history and beginnings as a silent movie theater.

Since before World War II, the building at 611 N. Fairfax Ave. has been a haven for movie fanatics. With a history including murder and controversy, this theater is now much more than just a theater. It has become a place where people with trendy mustaches and vintage graphic T-shirts congregate, thanks to Brain Dead.

Brain Dead is a streetwear clothing brand that has re-envisioned the Silent Movie Theater. Brain Dead Studios inhabits the theater and plays a wide variety of curated movies. Above the theater, streetwear enthusiasts can shop the Brain Dead clothing line, and foodies can dine at Slammer’s Cafe located in the back patio.

The origin

The theater originally was opened in 1942 by John Hampton, who had a passion for silent films. He and his wife lived in the apartment above the theater and exclusively screened silent films for 40 years. It closed in 1980 due to low attendance, and Hampton died in 1990.

Lawrence Austin, a friend of the Hamptons, reopened the theater in 1991. At the time, it was the only operating silent movie theater in the country. Austin remained the owner of the theater until 1997. In January of 1997, he was murdered during a movie showing.

The murder

The man behind his murder was James Van Sickle, the theater’s projectionist and Austin’s lover. He was also named the sole beneficiary to Austin’s estate that was valued at more than $1 million. Christian Rodriguez was hired by Van Sickle for $30,000 to kill Austin and the concession stand worker and to make the scene look like a robbery. Both Sickle and Rodriguez were sentenced to life in prison.

Next, the Cinefamily nonprofit organization leased and reopened the theater in 2007 but had to shut it down 10 years later due to allegations of sexual harassment and mistreatment of employees.

The building’s owners then decided to reopen the 163-seat theater themselves as the Fairfax Cinema. It debuted in December of 2019 but then had to shut down in March 2020 due to COVID-19.

In October of 2020, Brain Dead swooped in, took over the space and completely reformatted it. Every month, Brain Dead Studios releases a calendar of movie screenings that relate to a specific theme. Tickets are $12, and the experience is worth every cent.

The venue maintains the feeling of being at an old-time theater while remaining one of the coolest places on Fairfax. It is perfectly decorated with classic movie posters throughout the lobby and an abundance of neon signage.  It is the type of theater to sell yerba mate teas at the concession stand while the screen still remains behind curtains, unlike many modern theaters.

Despite the history of unfortunate luck, Brain Dead is providing something that the previous owners did not: a full experience. Before, the theater was simply a silent movie theater; now it is one of the most unique spaces on Fairfax, if not in the city. Whether you are stopping by for a movie, a quick browse at the latest clothing line release or for a visually pleasing cup of coffee, 611 N. Fairfax Ave. can satisfy. Visit for more information.

By Cerys Davies

Tags: , , , , ,

Category: Entertainment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *