Paul Fonoroff has two rules when it comes to collecting. "You have to be passionate about it," he deadpans. "And it has to be something that no one else is interested in."
That maxim helped the Cleveland native amass over 70,000 movie posters, periodicals, photos, lobby cards, theater flyers and other movie ephemera while he lived in Beijing and Hong Kong. Fonoroff's massive collection — which is the largest of its kind in North America and rivals what can be found at film archives in Asia — was recently acquired by UC Berkeley's C.V. Starr East Asian Library, opening an enormous cache to researchers and the public.
"I'm very excited that this collection ended up here because it's so hard to get these materials," says Chinese language and film studies professor Weihong Bao. "It's vast, but it's unique. There's really rare stuff in there, and it's exciting for our students and researchers in this field."
Bao's excitement is well-founded. Before it was made public, Fonoroff's collection was notorious within cinema circles. Or, as Bao puts it, "It was one of the worst kept secrets in the field." Before being shipped to Berkeley, the collection was housed in first one and eventually two apartments in Hong Kong.