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In April, celebrate over 100 years of going to the movies

FirstFilmViewingWhen: April 23

What: From romantic comedies to fantasy and horror, film has become a predominant form of expression in American culture. Debates about which director is best, who is the most artistic or which actor will win the Oscar often filter into conversations and dominate magazine covers. As a result, film is not only a form of entertainment, but for some it’s a passion and hobby. Whether curling up on the couch to watch a Friday night flick or camping out in a tent for tickets to a long-awaited sequel, it’s hard to believe that film only came to prominence little over a century ago. On April 23, take time to consider the impact films have had and how far they’ve come on the 115th anniversary of the first public viewing of projected motion pictures in the U.S.

Background: The first projector for motion pictures was known as the Vitascope and was the joint creation of inventors Charles Francis Jenkins and Thomas Armat. The two developed a projecting version of a previous design by Jenkins  called the Phantascope. However, the two broke up over patent issues, and Armat ended up selling the patent to Thomas Edison, who named it the Vitascope. The project made its public debut on April 23, 1896 at Koster and Bial’s Music Hall in New York City, making it the first time a crowd of people was able to sit down and watch a movie together. Before this, movies could only be watched by one person at a time by looking into a small viewing window on a machine called a Kinetoscope.

Story Pitch: Because movies have become such a massive part of world culture over the past 115 years, this event lends itself to a variety of industries. Both chain and independent theaters can recognize the creation of their industry with a variety of ticket specials or even special screenings of films. Film societies and archivists will also want to take this opportunity to promote their important work preserving film history. Companies that produce mobile devices and HD screens, as well as those that provide streaming content can also campaign around this event.

Story Hook: Although the 3D fad in Hollywood has been debated, an estimated 40 3D films are being released in 2011. What will be the next technological trend in films? Keep the following in mind when making your pitch:

  • What problems are movie theaters currently facing and why?
  • How can people best educate themselves on streaming movies, home HD and audio?
  • How has the internet and more accessible filming technology allowed people to make their own movies?
  • How are critics feeling about the current state of the industry’s artistry and technique?
  • What are some of the more unexpected ways that film has become infused into global society?

Tips: Providing contact information for someone in film studies as well as a local theater owner can offer perspectives on the history of film as well as the current issues in the industry.


American Film Institute
(323) 856-7600

The Society for Cinema and Media Studies
(405) 325-8075

National Association of Theatre Owners
(202) 962-0054

National Film Preservation Foundation

–Researched, compiled & written by Nicholas Testa
Event Dates & History Today from CHASE’S Calendar of Events

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