Screening of short films and rare archival footage headed for BOK

Atlas Obscura and Chase Sapphire will host “Assembly: Underground Films and Philly Legends” on Nov. 29.

Photo courtesy of Atlas Obscura

An archetype of once-neglected space, the BOK Building will soon showcase a collection of moving images capturing Philadelphia’s unexplored and understated heritage, culture and art — akin to the former vocational public school in South Philadelphia.

Staged in its early mid-century art deco auditorium, on Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m., BOK will hold a movie screening for the first time since its recent renovations, as Atlas Obscura, an international resource celebrating wonder in unexpected places, is hosting with Chase Sapphire “Assembly: Underground Films and Philly Legends,” a showing of short films and rare archival footage of Philadelphia.

From ephemeral moments like Instagram to preserved work on 16–35 mm film, the evening will feature a plethora of mediums shedding light to the city’s hidden gems.

“It’s just a lot of people who are part of documenting or keeping Philadelphia’s moving image heritage and culture,” explained South Philly resident John Pettit, who is head of the Atlas Obscura Society of Philadelphia Chapter. “…It’s just hitting a lot of different facets of cultural life in Philadelphia from a multitude of angles in film.”

The screening will feature five filmmakers and presenters, including Ricardo Rivera, founder and director of Klip Collective, Brendan Lowry of the Instagram account Peopledelphia, Jay Schwartz, a collector and screener of neglected films, Symphony for a Broken Orchestra, a project documenting unplayable instruments owned by the School District of Philadelphia and Nick Carr, an established filmmaker and location scout.

While Atlas Obscura uncovers the awes of 188 countries and 1,614 cities, it actively seeks “cool, hidden and unusual” things to do in Philadelphia, such as highlighting the mystic Cave of Kelpius concealed in Fairmount Park or the 17th century Frankford Avenue Bridge tucked away in Northeast Philly.

Consequently, the BOK Building itself will incarnate the mission behind “Assembly.”

“One of the parts of BOK that is still trying to find new light is the auditorium there — a huge art deco auditorium that fits hundreds of people is kind of a great example of preserved and reused architecture in the city, which we don’t see as much of. … The fact that this is a space that means a lot to a lot of people, and will continue to mean more to people,” Pettit said. “We’re really trying to have BOK’s history be an element.”

While the screening centers upon “underground art and unsung heroes,” Pettit says the featured artists themselves, who will speak on the background of their works during the event, emulate these very ideas themselves.

Ideally, the screening, which also includes a complimentary bar of movie treats and a slow-motion video booth for attendees, will allure audiences beyond the BOK auditorium, spotlighting and exposing the depth of these five individuals’ work and their annals of this city.

“I think both the people who are presenting and the people in the work are, again, just part of the cultural fabric of Philadelphia. The people who are presenting can be considered that a bit, and the people who are in the works from a long time ago are that,” Pettit said. “It’s not presenting the dominant narrative or figures in Philadelphia but just all the things around the edges or just beneath what meets the eye.”


  • $25 general admission
  • $9 general admission for former BOK students/staff, email for access code
  • Limited on-street parking is available. If possible, visitors are strongly encouraged to use an alternative form of transportation.
  • This event is appropriate for those 18-plus.
  • Cash bar is 21-plus only, please bring I.D.

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