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Silent Classics To Be Auctioned

May 2, 1999

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Hundreds of silent-movie classics including ``The Phantom of the Opera,″ ``The King of Kings″ and rare footage of W.C. Fields are heading to the auction block.

The prints of more than 1,500 films come from the Silent Movie Showcase in Hollywood, the country’s only movie theater dedicated to silent films, which closed in January 1997 after a gunman killed the theater’s owner, Lawrence Austin.

Other titles expected to be up for auction include ``The Hunchback of Notre Dame″ and a collection of Laurel and Hardy films including ``Two Tars″ and ``Dr. Jack.″

Many of the 16mm and 35mm silent films were given to the theater’s original owner by Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille.

The sale was scheduled for May 23-24 by the auction house Butterfield & Butterfield.

Austin was killed by Christian Rodriguez, who was hired by the theater owner’s business partner, James Vansickle. Rodriguez got a life sentence. Vansickle, also convicted of murdering Austin, is awaiting sentencing.

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