Monday, July 26, 2021

Vitascope Hall 125 -- July 26, 2021

Transactions of SMPE, September, 1925

Vitascope Hall, said to be the first permanent theater dedicated to showing movies, opened 125 years ago today, on 26-July-1896. The theater, at Canal and Exchange Streets in New Orleans, was founded by William (Pop) Rock and his partner, a man named Wainright. I don't know how often Vitascope Hall stayed in business, but a few years later, Pop Rock became president of the Vitagraph Company, a pioneer film production company. This is an excerpt from FH Richardson's "What Happened in the Beginning" from the September, 1925 issue of  Transaction of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers.

Vitascope Hall

I now present a photograph of "Vitascope Hall," opened by Messrs. Rock and Wainwright as a strictly motion picture theatre, in June 1896. Its location was the corner of Canal Street and Exchange Place, New Orleans, Louisiana. They showed, among other things, the "May Irwin Kiss," "Waves of Dover," also a lot of short scenic stuff. Admission was ten cents. For ten cents additional patrons were permitted to peek into the "projection room" and for another ten cents they were presented with one frame of old film. 

The projector used was the Armat Vitascope, then being produced by Thomas A. Edison, and, for business reasons, called the "Edison Vitascope." That last is on the authority of projectionist Reed, who had it direct from Mr. Rock, who himself purchased the projector.

The theatre was a store room fitted with a screen, wooden chairs, an enclosure for the projector, a ticket booth and a name -- Vitascope Hall. It seated about four hundred people. In the photograph you see its operators, Messrs. Rock and Wainright, standing in front, together with its projectionist, William Reed. Mr. Rock is at the extreme right, with Mr. Wainright next to him. Mr. Reed is at the extreme left. The names of the others are unknown. You will observe that "Li Hung Chang" was the bill on the day the photograph was taken.

Vitascope Hall Program

Here, gentlemen, is the printed program of that little theatre of far-off days. Doors open 10 to 3 and 6 to 10.

Moving Picture World, 13-August-1921

I used the version from Motion Picture World because it is reproduced more clearly than the version in the magazine.

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