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THE AUTOMAT, a documentary film about the phenomena of America’s original & most beloved restaurant chain in NYC & Philadelphia.
The documentary film about America’s original & most beloved restaurant chain in NYC & Philadelphia.
The documentary film about America’s original & most beloved restaurant chain in NYC & Philadelphia.
438 backers pledged $55,782 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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THE AUTOMAT, The Horn & Hardart Documentary Film

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Welcome to The Automat

Images Courtesy of the John W. Romas Collection of Horn & Hardart Memorabilia
Images Courtesy of the John W. Romas Collection of Horn & Hardart Memorabilia

Americans once sipped coffee and ate pie around communal tables, sharing their struggles and dreams with strangers at Horn & Hardart’s iconic Automat. Lifetimes ago, these working class palaces nourished a sense of unity that bridged the diversity of class, language, gender and race in the urban melting pots of the East Coast.

The story begins in a booming Philadelphia in the late 1800s. White-collar workers are flooding into the offices of newly built skyscrapers, and lunchrooms are springing up to feed them. Coentrepreneurs Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart seize their chance and by the early 1900s have BUILT a thriving chain of small restaurants and cafeterias, the latter a brand new trend of its own. Hardart brings back from Europe inspiration for the Automat, a ‘waiterless’ cafeteria that proves enormously popular, making the Horn and Hardart chain the dominant American restaurant company for the next half century. Kings of the New York and Philly restaurant scenes, the Automats feed millions throughout the Depression and two World Wars, serving all comers in palaces of marble, silver, and steel. Good food served cheap, and the enduring thrill of the automat machines themselves wins the Automat a place in our culture and hearts alike.

Travel back in time to experience this unique piece of America's history, an exciting story and one that may seem strangely familiar. More than just entertainment, THE AUTOMAT is a parable of how we once dined happily together before turning to the isolated and unhappy experience offered by fast food, a bad deal that no amount of advertising can disguise.

Our Goal & Our Drive

What started as a shared fascination with cafeterias and their culture, has turned into an incredible educational journey. As we dive deeper into the archives and hear stories told by people who experienced Horn and Hardart's restaurants first hand we appreciate more and more what we once had but have since lost.

The Automat is a project already two years in the making, with hundreds of hours of interviews and archival research behind us. We are seeking funding to complete shooting of the documentary film and to begin post-production work.

The money will help pay for:

  • Insurance
  • Equipment Rental
  • Permits
  • Transportation
  • Director of Photography
  • Transcription
  • Editing

In the event we exceed our goal we will be able to get further into the post-production process. 

Rewards

 

The Team

Director/Producer | Lisa Hurwitz

Lisa is Director and Producer of the THE AUTOMAT. Lisa's background is in arts administration. She directed the 2012 and 2013 Olympia Film Festivals and was Executive Administrator at Bumbershoot 2014: Seattle's Music & Arts Festival. She is very proud to have spent 4 years as a volunteer 35mm film projectionist at the Olympia Film Society at the historic Capitol Theater while getting her B.A. from The Evergreen State College. She is also proud to have run the Film Society's successful and crucial digital cinema conversion campaign. 

Producer | Alec Shuldiner

Alec authored the 2001 PhD dissertation the film is based on, Trapped Behind the Automat: Technological Systems and the American Restaurant, 1902-1991. As a Producer and Historical Consultant on THE AUTOMAT, he is assisting in adapting his dissertation for the screen. Alec received his B.A. in Comparative Religion from Harvard University and his doctorate in Science and Technology Studies from Cornell University. He lived for many years in the Netherlands where automat machines are still popular. Currently he works for Autodesk, a leading provider of 3D design, engineering and entertainment software.

Associate Producer | Becki Chandler

Becki is the Associate Producer for THE AUTOMAT and Production Designer for various film projects and interactive corporate events. She worked as an Operations Manager for a NY based non-profit focusing on human rights, civil rights, fighting anti-Semitism and promoting tolerance. She studied and worked as an Interior Designer & Project Manager for over 15 years. She has served on various non-profit boards, supporting fundraising campaigns, strategic planning, and educational programming. Becki is the granddaughter of immigrants that settled in NYC and ate at the Automat.

Cinematographer | Philip Lucas

Philip is a graduate of The Evergreen State College where he studied film with an emphasis on social justice. His work has ranged from experimental travelogues to a broadcast quality sitcom pilot. Outside of filmmaking Philip's main interests are writing, photography, and he is a passionate cook with a flair for French cuisine. He now resides in Philadelphia and has a cat named Leonard Nimoy.

Risks and challenges

We have been extremely fortunate thus far to have access to historians, members of the Horn & Hardart families, Horn & Hardart employees & customers, and celebrities. Many have provided time, archival material, services, and resources in-kind. We have managed to keep our costs down considerably because of those who have graciously supported us. We have not only made a commitment to ourselves but to those who have been part of our journey.

Our risks are not being able to do in-person interviews with those who are strong components to the story. Because this project is based so heavily on personal stories and experiences, it would be challenging to build the story without these.

It has been incredibly inspiring to hear people talk about this project. This story may not be for everyone but our audience has reassured us that this story needs to be told. We owe it to you.

Video Credits
- Cinematography by Philip Lucas
- Second Camera Andre Mascarenhas & Riley Gibson
- Sound Design & Mix by Steve Heinke, Pure Audio
- Artwork by Max Ginsburg
- Edited by Lisa Hurwitz

Thank you to all of the participants of this project and to everyone who has helped us along the way.

Special Thanks to Dawn & Al Mazzone of Horn & Hardart Brands, the members of the Horn & Hardart families, Tony Reid, Stefanie Malone, Paul Goldberg, J Schwartz, Thomas Lannon & Tal Nadan of The Manuscripts and Archives Division of the New York Public Library, and a VERY special thanks to John W. Romas of Horn & Hardart for access to his personal collection.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    NICKEL THROWER

    Nickel throwers were employees of the Automat who made change for all the customers. Every nickel counts (and so does every nickel thrower.) Thank you so much for your support! (WA State sales tax included)

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    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    AUTOMAT ANGEL

    Recognition in THE AUTOMAT, documentary film credits & on our website. (WA State sales tax included)

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    62 backers
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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    MEET ME AT THE AUTOMAT

    THE AUTOMAT, documentary film digital mystery download & recognition in film credits & on our website. (WA State sales tax included)

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    REMEMBER WHEN

    A set of THE AUTOMAT, documentary film limited edition note cards featuring polaroid photos from private collection of the Automat, & recognition in film credits & on our website. (WA State sales tax included)

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    52 backers
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    Pledge $70 or more About $70

    THOSE BAKED BEANS!

    A both comical and serious video download of Joseph Horn's great-nephew Norris Horn demonstrating how to prepare Horn & Hardart's famous baked beans, a set of THE AUTOMAT documentary film limited edition note cards featuring polaroid photos from private collection of the Automat, a mystery download, & recognition in film credits & on our website. (WA State sales tax included)

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    READ ALL ABOUT IT

    A signed copy of “The Automat” book – co-authored by Marianne Hardart & Lorraine Diehl + THE AUTOMAT, documentary film reusable bag. Marianne & Lorraine will be seen in THE AUTOMAT, documentary film, & recognition in film credits & on our website. (WA State sales tax included)

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    A SIP OF NOSTALGIA

    A bag of Horn & Hardart coffee. An Automat favorite, & recognition in film credits & on our website. (WA State sales tax included)

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    5 backers
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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    BOOK LOVER

    A copy of the book “Automats, Taxi Dances, and Vaudeville: Excavating Manhattan's Lost Places of Leisure” – Author David Freeland + THE AUTOMAT, documentary film reusable bag. David will be seen in THE AUTOMAT, documentary film, & recognition in film credits & on our website. (WA State sales tax included)

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    9 backers
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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    I LIKE PIE

    An apple pie, from a bakery near you! A favorite at the Automat, & recognition in film credits & on our website. (WA State sales tax included)

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    1 backer
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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    NYC EXPERIENCE

    Lost NY tour with David Freeland, Author of 'Automats, Taxi Dances, and Vaudeville: Excavating Manhattan's Lost Places of Leisure'. David will be seen in THE AUTOMAT, the documentary film & recognition in film credits & on our website. (travel & lodging not included - WA State sales tax included)

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    AND ALL THAT SWAG

    A signed copy of “The Automat” book – co-authored by Marianne Hardart & Lorraine Diehl, a 12oz bag of Horn & Hardart coffee, THE AUTOMAT, documentary film reusable bag & note cards, & recognition in film credits & on our website. (WA Sate sales tax included)

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    4 backers
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    Pledge $800 or more About $800

    A PIECE OF HISTORY

    Your own Automat door courtesy of architectural dealer Steve Stollman of theautomat.com, & recognition in film credits & on our website (WA Sate sales tax included)

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    Pledge $850 or more About $850

    FOOD TOUR

    A six-person food tour with NY blogger Joe DiStefano, "The Man who Ate Queens". His two Chinatowns tour explores both
    Flushing and Elmhurst over the course of about four hours. Joe will be seen in THE AUTOMAT, the documentary film, & recognition in film credits & on our website. (travel & lodging not included - Food & WA State sales tax included)

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    LET'S HAVE ANOTHER CUP OF COFFEE

    Coffee in NYC with the co-authors of “The Automat,” Marianne Hardart & Lorraine Diehl. Marianne & Lorraine will be seen in THE AUTOMAT, documentary film, & recognition in film credits & on our website. (travel & lodging not included - WA State sales tax included)

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    HORN & HARDART COFFEE CLUB

    A 6-Month Horn & Hardart Coffee Club subscription. One 12oz bag mailed to you per month, & recognition in film credits & on our website. (WA Sate sales tax included)

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    KEEPING THE MEMORIES ALIVE

    Meet today’s owners of todays Horn & Hardart Coffee, Albert & Dawn Mazzone. Your choice of NYC or Philadelphia. Albert & Dawn will be seen in THE AUTOMAT, the documentary film, & recognition in film credits & on our website. (travel & lodging not included - WA State sales tax included)

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    Pledge $2,000 or more About $2,000

    HORN & HARDART COFFEE CLUB

    A 12-Month Horn & Hardart Coffee Club subscription. One 12oz bag mailed to you per month. Also one-time apple pie, from a bakery near you, & recognition in film credits & on our website! (WA Sate sales tax included)

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    ASSOCIATE PRODUCER

    Named in THE AUTOMAT, documentary film credits. (this honorary title does not give creative rights or ownership of the film - WA Sales tax included)

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    LET THEM ENTERTAIN YOU!

    You & a guest will join the great-nephew of Horn & Hardart's founder Joseph Horn and his wife Mary Alice for lunch at the Times Square Olive Garden and a Broadway show, & recognition in film credits & on our website. (travel & lodging not included - WA State taxes included)

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    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000

    EXECUTIVE PRODUCER

    Named in the film THE AUTOMAT, documentary film credits. (this honorary title does not give creative rights or ownership of the film - WA STATE sales tax included)

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Funding period

- (30 days)