In 1884, Laza Meir was born in Minsk, Russia. He emigrated with his family to Canada at a young age, dropped out of school at 12 years old, and headed to work in the scrap metal business with his father. Some years later—with eyes set on Boston—he moved and eventually bought an old vaudeville theater in downtown Haverhill called the Gem Theater, known among the locals as the “Garlic Box,” an apparent racist nickname made for the Italian immigrants who populated the city of Haverhill and frequented the theater. Laza Meir renovated and reopened it as the Orpheum on November 28, 1907; only 12 years after the first public film screening in the world occurred in Paris, Haverhill had its own movie theater. He owned five downtown theaters by the end of his time in Haverhill.
This man’s American name was Louis B. Mayer, co-founder of MGM studios and one of the most influential people in Hollywood history. We hope the Haverhill Film Festival will follow in his footsteps and grow exponentially from its humble beginnings. Known as the Haverhill Experimental Film Festival for the first 5 years, HFF 2018 is revamping its programming to include experimental, animation, documentary, local, and narrative films for the next 5 years.