Before Video: A History of the Non-Theatrical Film

By Anthony Slide | Go to book overview

The Alaska-Siberian Expedition is a six-reel record of the Carnegie Museum expedition led by Frank E. Kleinschmidt, and when the film first opened in New York in May 1912 it was accompanied with a live lecture by Kleinschmidt (who also photographed the film). Atop the World in Motion is discussed elsewhere in this chapter. Paul J. Rainey was a wealthy Cleveland businessman who died on his ranch in Nairobi in 1923. Paul J. Rainey's African Hunt is a record of an African safari in which Rainey used packs of dogs to hunt wildlife that he and his fellow hunters could then shoot.

Because the non-theatrical film as such did not exist in 1912, the films just mentioned fall only coincidentally into the non-theatrical genre. The first attempt to produce a non-theatrical feature came in 1923 when Homestead Films, Inc., of Chicago, which had been formed two years earlier, released The Brown Mouse, advertised as "A real feature for the Non-Theatrical field." No record of the cast, technical crew, or subject matter of the film has been located.

It was more than twenty years before another attempt was made to produce an entertainment feature exclusively for the non-theatrical market. In 1944, Major 16mm Productions released a Western titled Sundown Riders, directed by veteran Lambert Hillyer (who had once worked with William S. Hart) and starring Russell Wade, Jay Kirby, and Andy Clyde. Financed by H. V. George, the feature was shot over an eight-day period in 16mm Kodachrome at a cost of $30,000, considerably less than a black- and-white 35mm Western feature of the same period would have cost to produce.

Sundown Riders was advertised as "the first feature length entertainment picture made by and with professionals and offered for unrestricted exhibition." In its review, Variety ( October 11, 1944) concentrated on the unique nature of the production: "For years the industry has not only bypassed the rapidly-expanding 16mm field, but has built up resistance to making features available for that branch of the business. A few companies and producers make features available to the miniature field, but only after two or more years [from the original release of the films]. Even the aged subjects have, in many instances, returned surprising grosses from the home, school, and institution circuits."

Feature-length non-theatrical production might be slow in coming and remain virtually experimental throughout the entire history of the genre, but short subject production could only expand in the decades ahead.


NOTES
1.
Quoted in Frederick James Smith, "The Evolution of the Motion Picture," New York Dramatic Mirror, July 9, 1913, p. 24.
2.
Quotes are taken from Rita Horwitz and Harriet Harrison, The George Kleine

-16-

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Before Video: A History of the Non-Theatrical Film
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions to the Study of Mass Media and Communications ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Notes xii
  • One Origins 1
  • Notes 16
  • Two Chicago-- the Non-Theatrical Film Capital of the World 19
  • Notes 31
  • Three the Eastman Kodak Connection 33
  • Notes 43
  • Four Specialization 45
  • Five Film in Education and Religion 59
  • Notes 73
  • Six the Chronicles of America 75
  • Notes 87
  • Seven the 1930s and 1940s 89
  • Notes 105
  • Eight Decades of Progress and Prosperity 107
  • Notes 120
  • Nine the Waning Years 123
  • Notes 136
  • Appendix A: Major Non- Theatrical Distributors of the 1920s 137
  • Appendix B: Major Non-Theatrical 16mm Distributors of the 1930s 141
  • Appendix C: Major Non-Theatrical 16mm Distributors of the 1940s 145
  • Appendix D: Useful Non-Theatrical Addresses 151
  • Selected Bibliography 155
  • Index 161
  • About the Author 172
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