An annual film series recreating the weekend matinees of yester-year!

Movie serials, shown complete and in order! Plus classic features!

The Saturday Secret Matinee series returns in 2022!

A man riding a motorcycle peers into the distance

Keep an eye out for details!

About the Secret Matinees

Each week's show presents a thrilling episode of a movie serial, paired with a classic (but secret!) feature film. Each series runs for three months — the length of a typical weekly serial.

The Secret Matinees are presented by The Sprocket Society. They originated from a desire to show movie serials in the way they were intended to be seen: in weekly installments, in a theater, along with other movie goers.

The movies and serial chapters are always shown from actual film prints (usually 16mm) — never DVDs, digital, or videotape. This is consistent with The Sprocket Society's mission of celebrating mechanical cinema.

The first Secret Matinee series was in the autumn of 2008 at the Northwest Film Forum. The series has returned annually except for a hiatus in 2010, and now in 2021 (due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Since 2011, the home for the Secret Matinees has been the Grand Illusion Cinema, a volunteer-run, nonprofit jewel box theater that is the longest-running independent cinema in the city.

In 2013 our Austin, TX chapter (now defunct) held its own Secret Matinee series, at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz.

Secret Matinees online

Stay up to date with our social media and web stuff:

Previous Secret Matinee series

  1. August 31 — November 23, 2008 | Northwest Film Forum
    The Sunday Secret Matinees
    Serial: Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940) — 12 episodes
    Feature genres included sci-fi and horror. Each show also included a cartoon or short (sometimes both).
  2. March 1 — May 24, 2009 | Northwest Film Forum
    The Sunday Secret Matinees II: Adventure! And Stuff!
    Serial: Zorro's Fighting Legion (1939) — 12 episodes
    Feature genres were expanded to include silent film, art-house and foreign releases, swashbucklers...and sci-fi and horror, of course. Each show also included a cartoon or short.
  3. January 8 — March 26, 2011 | Grand Illusion Cinema
    Sci-Fi Saturday Secret Matinees
    Serial: Flash Gordon (1936) — 13 episodes
    Feature themes: Japanese Giants, Weird Worlds, and Crazy Creatures
  4. January 7 — March 24, 2012 | Grand Illusion Cinema
    Sci-Fi Saturday Secret Matinees II
    Serial: Buck Rogers (1939) — 12 episodes
    Feature themes: Space Madness, Steampunk Adventures, and Beasts from Beyond
  5. January 5 — March 23, 2013 | Grand Illusion Cinema
    Saturday Secret Matinees (2013 edition)
    Serial: Zorro's Fighting Legion (1939) — 12 episodes
    Feature themes: Heroes & Villains, Exotic Lands, and Alien Encounters
  6. August 4 — October 27, 2013 | The Ritz, Alamo Drafthouse (Austin, TX)
    Secret Sunday Matinees
    Serial: The Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) — 12 episodes
    Feature genres included sci-fi, adventure, comedy, and crime.
  7. January 11 — March 29, 2014 | Grand Illusion Cinema
    Saturday Secret Matinees (2014 edition)
    Serial: Batman and Robin (1949) — 15 episodes
    Feature themes: Superheroes!, Tough Guys!, and B-Movie Monsters!
  8. January 10 — March 28, 2015 | Grand Illusion Cinema
    Saturday Secret Matinees (2015 edition)
    Serial: The Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) — 12 episodes
    Feature themes: Saturday Morning TV Classics, Antique Futures (pre-1940 science fiction), and Walk Like a Wagon (classic westerns, 1939-1957)
  9. January 8 — March 26, 2016 | Grand Illusion Cinema
    Saturday Secret Matinees (2016 edition)
    Serial: Spy Smasher (1942) — 12 episodes
    Feature themes: Classic Comedies, Serial Heroes & Heroines, and Fantasy & Adventure
  10. January 7 — March 25, 2017 | Grand Illusion Cinema
    Saturday Secret Matinees (2017 edition)
    Serial: Undersea Kingdom (1936) — 12 episodes
    Feature themes: Giant Monsters, Art-House Cinema, and TV Time
  11. January 6 — March 24, 2018 | Grand Illusion Cinema
    Saturday Secret Matinees (2018 edition) 10th anniversary!
    Serial: Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940) — 12 episodes
    Feature themes (bi-weekly): Alien Invasion, Swashbuckling Heroes, Very Bad Deals, Twisted Intrigues, Atomic Monsters, and Widescreen Thrills (rare 16mm cinemascope prints).
  12. January 5 — March 30, 2019 | Grand Illusion Cinema
    Saturday Secret Matinees (2019 edition)
    Serial: Mysterious Doctor Satan (1940) — 15 episodes
    Feature themes (bi-weekly): Weird Crimes, War is Hell, Weimar Silent Masterpieces, Song & Dance, Super Disaster!, Special Ides of March show (March 16 only), Kaiju Attack!
  13. January 11 - March 28, 2019 (as scheduled) | Grand Illusion Cinema
    Saturday Secret Matinees (2020 edition)
    The final three weeks of the 2020 series were cancelled due to a statewide pandemic lockdown.
    Serial: The Fighting Devil Dogs (1938) — 12 episodes
    Feature themes (bi-weekly): Classic Creatures, B-Western Heroes, German Silent Cinema, Weird Early Musicals, Journeys to the Beyond (partially cancelled), Totally High! (cancelled)

About movie serials

In the old days, you got a lot of movie for the price of admission. A typical program would include one or even two feature films, plus a number of short subjects: a newsreel, a cartoon, a comedy or mini-musical, and — on the weekends — an episode of a thrilling movie serial.

Movie serials were extended films that were broken up into separate short chapters (or episodes) and usually shown weekly. They were extremely popular from 1912 through the late 1950s, when competition from television and rising production costs put an end serials and, eventually, all theatrical shorts.

During the silent era, serial episodes continued the overall story-line but were largely self-contained. During the sound era, the convention became for each episode to end with the hero or heroine in great or mortal danger, with little or no means of escape — the famous "cliffhanger ending." The viewer was thus (hopefully) hooked, and would return the following week to plunk down the price of admission to learn their fate.

Online articles about serials

  • The Files of Jerry Blake: Movie Serial Reviews and Other Cliffhanging Material — Our immediate go-to for information about any serial in the sound era. It is hands down the absolute, A-number-one best resource about serials on the internet (and possibly anywhere else). No contest. There are some 220 reviews of individual serials and each one is detailed, thorough, knowledgable, and thoughtful. There are also extensive bios of dozens of actors, even the bit players. All of it is extensively illustrated with stills and publicity pix. And that's not including the blog. Just an amazing piece of work.
  • "In Focus: Cliffhangers!" by Gary Johnson (Images Journal, Issue 4, summer 1997) — This fine article covers the history of serials from their beginnings in the silent era, to their downfall in the late 1950s, plus profiles on 10 of the best serials ever made.
  • "How Old Movie Serials Inspired Lucas and Spielberg" by Janet Maslin (New York Times, June 7, 1981)
  • "Serial Films" by Tim Dirks (Filmsite.org)
  • The Serial Squadron — A group restoring rare and "lost" serials from the early 1900s to the 1940s, and releasing them on DVD.

Books about serials: a select bibliography

  • William Witney, In a Door, Into a Fight, Out a Door, Into a Chase: Moviemaking Remembered by the Guy at the Door (McFarland & Company, 2008)
  • Jim Harmon and Donald F. Glut, The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury (Doubleday, 1972)
  • Kalton C. Lahue
    • Bound and Gagged: The Story of the Silent Serials (Castle Books, 1968)
    • Continued Next Week : A History of the Moving Picture Serial (University of Oklahoma Press, 1969)
  • Barbara Tepa Lupack, Silent Serial Sensations: The Wharton Brothers and the Magic of Early Cinema (Cornell University Press, 2020)
  • Rudmer Canjels, Distributing Silent Film Serials: Local Practices, Changing Forms, Cultural Transformation (Routledge, 2010)
  • Raymond William Stedman
    • The Serials: Suspense and Drama by Installment (University of Oklahoma Press, 1971)
    • The Movie Serial Companion, Book One (The Nostalgia League, 2010)
    • The Movie Serial Companion, Book Two (The Nostalgia League, 2011)
  • Alan B. Barbour
    • Days of Thrills and Adventures: An Affectionate Pictorial History of The Movie Serial (Macmillan Company, 1970)
    • Cliffhanger: A Pictorial History of The Motion Picture Serial (Citadel Press, 1973)
    • Saturday Afternoon At The Movies: 3 Volumes in 1 (Random House, 1987)
  • William C. Cline
    • In the Nick of Time: Motion Picture Sound Serials (McFarland & Company, Inc., 1984)
    • Serials-Ly Speaking: Essays on Cliffhangers (McFarland & Company, 2000)
  • Jack Mathis
    • Valley of the Cliffhangers (Jack Mathis Advertising, 1975)
    • Valley of The Cliffhangers Supplement (Jack Mathis Advertising, 1995)
  • James Van Hise, Serial Adventures: The Incredible Story of the Superheroes of the Silver Screen, (Pioneer Books, 1990)
  • Roy Kinnard, Fifty Years of Serial Thrills (Scarecrow Press,1983)
  • Ken Weiss and Ed Goodgold, To Be Continued...: A Complete Guide to Motion Picture Serials (Crown Publishing, 1972)
  • Ed Hulse
    • Blood 'n' Thunder's Cliffhanger Classics (CreateSpace, 2012)
    • Blood 'n' Thunder's Cliffhanger Classics, Volume Two (CreateSpace, 2017)
    • Distressed Damsels and Masked Marauders: Cliffhanger Serials of The Silent-Movie Era (CreateSpace, 2014)
    • Handsome Heroes and Vicious Villains: More Cliffhanger Serials of the Silent-Movie Era (CreateSpace, 2016)
    • Behind the Mask: The Making of Republic's Lone Ranger Serials (CreateSpace, 2018)
  • Hank Davis
    • Classic Cliffhangers: Volume 1, 1914-1940 (Midnight Marquee Press, 2007)
    • Classic Cliffhangers: Volume 2 1941-1955 (Midnight Marquee Press, 2008)
  • Buck Rainey
    • Serial Film Stars: A Biographical Dictionary, 1912-1956 (MacFarland & Company, 2005)
    • Serials and Series: A World Filmography, 1912-1956 (MacFarland & Company, 1999; rev. ed. 2010)
  • Bruce Hershenson
    • Serial Movie Posters (self-published, 1999)
    • To Be Continued...: 1930'S & 1940's Serial Movie Posters (self-published, 2001)
  • Wayne Schutz, The Motion Picture Serial: An Annotated Bibliography, 1912-1956 (Scarecrow Press, 1992)