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Luigi Ruffolo
08-22-2021 at 01:56 AM
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The Magic Room: Atari computer camp movie (long-lost 18-minute version)

Kay Savetz: «From 1982 through 1984, Atari ran summer computer camps at several locations around the United States. That first year, Atari commissioned a film about its summer camps, about the kids and teachers who were there, about the process of learning about computers, about kids challenging themselves, and about making friends at summer camp. Filmmakers Bob Elfstrom and Lucy Hilmer shot the film at the University of California, San Diego campus in 1982. "The Magic Room" was released in 1983.

Three versions of the film were created: a 26-minute version, an 18-minute version, and a 3-minute trailer. The 26-minute version and the 3-minute version were digitized years ago and have been available online for some time.

It was unclear whether the 18-minute version still existed, or if it had ever existed. The filmmakers' contract with Atari indicated it was created, but the filmmakers couldn't remember for sure. It was unclear, that is, until August 2021, when Lucy Hilmer found the 3/4" videotape of the 18-minute version and sent it to me. I had it professionally digitized, and now it's available at YouTube (and the full-resolution version is at Internet Archive).

The 18-minute movie isn't just a shortened version of the longer version. It's a substantially different edit, featuring more intimate perspectives on certain campers, and entire scenes lacking in the 27-minute cut.

I don't know if this middle-length version of the movie was ever shown beyond the walls of Atari, but I do know that for the first time in decades, we have some new views onto that summer in 1982 at Atari computer camp.

3-minute version:
26-minute version:
My interview with Bob Elfstrom, one of the filmmakers:

The Magic Room Production Documents:
ANTIC podcast special episode - Atari Summer Camp: ».
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