"Majestic Theatre" 3D Graphic 2000 Jo Baldwin




Ever since the invention of motion pictures there have been audiences and buildings to accomodate them. The earliest of these "movie houses" were usually old vaudeville theatres, town halls, arcades, schools and even churches. Often the setup for viewing films was no more than a large sheet used for a screen, a few benches and a curtain that separated the ticket lobby from the screen area.

The first establishment built specifically for viewing movies was Tally's Electric Theatre in Los Angeles in 1902. Soon movie houses were springing up all over the country. When it became apparent that the movies were here to stay, immense lavish theatres were built called "palaces". The first of these was constructed in 1913 in New York City and was called The Regent.

Between 1914-1922, 4,000 new theatres were opened. The palaces were truly grand, sometimes seating thousands of patrons. They were decorated in extravagant eclectic styles where no detail was spared. The largest palaces provided their customers with medical attendents in case of emergencies, nurseries and even pet boarding services! They contained posh smoking lounges, restrooms and powder rooms. Carefully trained ushers dressed in fancy attire politely attended to all the patrons' needs.


Newly Refurbished Circa 1930's State Theatre, Falls Church, Virginia




During the era of the "silents", live orchestras and theatre organs provided music and sound effects to accompany the films. The theatre organ was truly a magnificent invention capable of reproducing a full symphony of sound. It was also used to duplicate numerous sound effects such as ringing telephones, birds singing, rushing wind, etc. Unfortunately its role in movie history was shortlived. With the invention of "talkies" by the year 1929, the theatre organ fell into disuse. It was then relegated to live stage shows and religious gatherings.

By 1930 the Art Deco era had arrived. The clean modern lines and geometric tile patterns of this architectural style resulted in a new type of palace theatre. Radio City Music Hall which opened in 1932 is a fine example of this type of architecture. 1933 saw the arrival of the first outdoor theatre called a "drive-in" in Camden, New Jersey. These theatres quickly became popular and by the mid 1950's over 4,000 of them had spread across the country.


Astor Cinema in Melbourne, Australia
Ron Israel for Kino Cinema Quarterly



Music playing is "Lights! Camera! Action!"
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