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Movie Exhibition in Manitoba: The Case of J. A. Schuberg

by Robert M. Seiler and Tamara P. Seiler
Faculty of Communication and Culture, University of Calgary

Manitoba History, Number 58, June 2008

Exhibiting motion pictures as a commercial enterprise in North America dates from 23 April 1896, when Thomas Armat and C. Francis Jenkins introduced Thomas A. Edison’s “latest marvel,” the Vitascope, at Koster and Bial’s Music Hall, located at 6th Avenue and West 24th Street, New York City, where Macy’s store stands today. [1] Admission to the popular music hall/beer garden ranged from 25 cents for seats in the balcony to $1.50 for reserved seats on the auditorium floor and in the boxes. The new entertainment—a selection of Edison motion pictures—was screened as part of that week’s vaudeville program, which included a Russian clown, an “eccentric” dancer, two gymnasts, and a singer of “coster” songs. These films (each was under a minute in length) included The Umbrella Dance, Rough Sea at Dover, produced by Robert Paul in Great Britain, Burlesque Boxing, The Monroe Doctrine, and Serpentine Dance. [2] They had been spliced together to form a band, thus enabling the projectionist (Armat) to show the films without having to rewind them. According to The New York Times, an appreciative crowd of well-to-do customers (wearing silk hats) watched the films with great interest, marvelling at the movement of the life-like figures. [3] With this demonstration, Koster and Bial set the pattern for motion picture exhibition over the next ten years, i.e., combining movies and live entertainment. [4]

Vaudeville theatres thus served as the primary site for commercial movie exhibition between 1896 and 1906, when permanent sites (store-front theatres) began to appear across North America. Vaudeville managers valued movies because they helped satisfy the appetite of audiences for visual novelty, while movie producers valued vaudeville theatres because they enabled them to reach an enormous middle-class audience. Moreover, vaudeville provided the nascent film industry a measure of stability during a period of uncertainty, generated in part by the many patent infringement suits Thomas Edison launched against his rivals. [5] Movie producers benefited greatly from this arrangement since they did not have to risk spending huge sums of money on building exhibition facilities. Even more importantly, this arrangement provided them with a great opportunity to learn valuable lessons from vaudeville managers about conducting an amusement business, e.g., such basic business principles as effective marketing.

Vaudeville theatres offered movie entrepreneurs access to a huge audience during the early years of the commercialization of leisure-time activities in general and the movies in particular. The last two decades of the nineteenth century and the first two of the twentieth witnessed the expansion of cheaply-priced public entertainment, including dime museums, penny arcades, roller skating rinks, and dance halls, thanks to the flow of people to cities, and the prosperity that filtered down to the working class. In this context, it soon became apparent that, to differentiate their product, what these early movie entrepreneurs needed was a permanent site of their own. They tried a variety of venues, including penny arcades and amusement parks. Located at the end of trolley lines in major cities, such parks offered the possibility of attracting large audiences; municipal railway companies promoted entertainment at these sites because they wanted people to travel on their systems. For exhibitors, however, this meant screening films during the summer months only. Another strategy was to bring movies to audiences.

Manitoba Free Press, 1 December 1917.

Early Movie Exhibition in Canada

Exhibiting movies as a commercial enterprise in English‑speaking Canada probably dates from 21 July 1896, when two well‑known Ottawa businessmen, Andrew M. Holland and George C. Holland, in conjunction with Thomas Ahearn and Warren Soper, managers of the Ottawa Electric Railway Company, introduced the Edison Vitascope at West End Park, an amusement park located at the westerly terminus of the Ottawa Electric Railway Company. [6] As Peter Morris explains, Ahearn and Soper saw the motion picture show as another attraction that would lure citizens of Ottawa to West End Park (which they had developed on land once owned by the Holland family, the site spanning what is now Holland Avenue and extending from Ruskin Avenue to Queensway).

As in the United States, selling the new entertainment meant screening films as part of a vaudeville program. Admission prices were set at ten cents for adults and five cents for children. Round‑trip tickets to the park “including car fares, admission, and reserved seat” could be obtained for twenty‑five cents from Ahearn and Soper’s offices at 56 Spark Street, Ottawa. [7] Between six and eight hundred customers attended the open-air show, which began at 8 pm. John C. Green, known professionally as “Belsaz, the Magician,” introduced the short films (less than two minutes in length), which were projected onto a large canvas screen. They included The May Irwin Kiss (1896), the great hit of 1896; Watermelon Contest (1896); Shooting the Chutes (1896); Black Diamond Express (1896); and LaLoie Fuller’s Serpentine Dance (n.d.). Interestingly, the Governor General’s Foot Guards Band provided a musical accompaniment. The show was a great success. Thrilled by the Vitascope’s life‑like reproduction of movement, Ottawans flocked to West End Park, and the Holland brothers extended the engagement. Audiences enjoyed the sense of “being there,” being part of the activities taking place on the screen. Within months, entrepreneurs were exhibiting motion pictures in urban centres across the country. [8]

Despite such successes, amusement parks provided only a temporary venue for exhibiting motion pictures, given the seasonal nature of these enterprises. [9] Moreover, in spite of the massive urbanization that was taking place in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many people in the United States and Canada living in communities of fewer than three thousand had no amusement park at all. One way to bring movies to people in the rural areas was to follow the example of nineteenth century entertainers and to travel, i.e., to work a circuit of sites within a given territory.

Entering the (itinerant) movie exhibition business was one thing; prospering in this risky enterprise was another. [10] From 1898, ambitious individuals—possessing varying levels of mechanical ability and showmanship skills—obtained the equipment required from any number of the suppliers who advertised in such trade papers as the Moving Picture World. As Kathryn Fuller observes, they could purchase Edison projectors from Edison Manufacturing Company outlets in New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco for $135. As well, they could obtain this equipment from Sigmund Lubin, the Philadelphia‑based producer of motion pictures and manufacturer of movie exhibition equipment, including the Cineograph, a combination camera and projector, and from Sears, Roebuck, and Company, the Chicago‑based mail‑order retailer, which had just launched a department called “Public Entertainment Outfits and Supplies.” Taking advantage of the increasing interest in motion pictures, [11] Sears, Roebuck, and Company supplied the would‑be‑exhibitor with all the equipment needed to enter the business, including stereopticons, moving picture projectors, motion pictures, and phonographs, plus scripts of lectures, sets of slides, records, advertising posters, and rolls of tickets. The firm also provided instruction manuals explaining how to handle the machinery, how to secure the venues in which to exhibit films, and how to advertise. Equipped with these materials, the exhibitor would travel the country, visiting such venues as churches, town halls, theatres, and opera houses. The majority travelled to fairs, where they erected temporary canvas theatres for staging vaudeville shows and exhibiting their movies. [12]

In rough‑and‑ready venues, audiences sat in makeshift seats or stood during the fifteen or twenty minutes required to watch the short films. The first projectors were noisy and caused much (and irritating) flickering on the screen. The itinerant showman would show a program of movies until the audience lost interest, and then move on to another locale. To enhance his program, i.e., turn it into a “special event,” the showman adopted some of the techniques that managers of vaudeville theatres employed, including arranging short films to evoke a poignant theme or featuring a fascinating lantern show or securing a talented lecturer who talked throughout the movies, commenting on or clarifying the action. [13]

To appreciate the development of theatrical movie exhibition in western Canada—as a commercial enterprise and (by extension) moviegoing as a social practice—during the heyday of the indoor, single-screen facility, the period from approximately 1910 to 1970, one must begin by studying those entrepreneurs who devoted time and energy to establishing movie exhibition as a legitimate business, to responding to calls to reform and to regulate the business, and to creating a national chain of movie theatres. Ultimately, this means focusing on the changing conditions of the film business, with regard to supply and demand, the structure of the exhibition industry, and corporate behaviour, not to mention the strategies these entrepreneurs used to manage their enterprises, in terms of theatre design, programming strategies, seating arrangements, pricing tactics, and marketing schemes.

Arguably, researchers should begin with J. A. (John) Schuberg, the first important film exhibitor in western Canada, and then consider Allen Theatre Enterprises Limited, Famous Players Corporation Limited, and Odeon Theatres (Canada) Limited respectively. (Here, we focus on the first part of this story.) The Allen organization introduced large, deluxe movie theatres to communities across Canada, creating a chain of movie theatres that extended from one coast to the other. Bernard (Barney) Allen and his wife Goldie Allen, Russian-born entrepreneurs, had settled (in the early 1880s) in Bradford, McKean County, a major industrial region of northwestern Pennsylvania, where he had set himself up as a jeweller. His sons, Jule (b 1888) and Jay (b 1890), had developed an interest in business in general and motion pictures in particular. With their father’s assistance, they set themselves up (in 1907) in Brantford, Ontario, where they established a small chain of movie theatres and a distribution business. In 1910, the Allens moved to Calgary, making the city the headquarters of what would become an exhibition and a distribution empire. [14]

John Albert Schuberg (1875–1953), the motion picture pioneer of Western Canada.
Source: Winnipeg Free Press, 27 February 1960.

The Case of J. A. (John) Schuberg

This was the context in which J. A. (John) Schuberg, the enterprising showman known professionally as “Johnny Nash,” can be said to have brought the movies to the major centres across western Canada. F. W. (Ivan) Ackery, the manager of the Orpheum Theatre (Vancouver) for more than thirty years, describes Schuberg as the first successful movie house operator in Canada. [15] What set this travelling showman apart from his colleagues was his resourcefulness, especially his strategy of designing “thematic” programs of short films, thereby intensifying his audience’s movie‑going experience. [16]

Schuberg, the son of Swedish immigrants, grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He worked at a very young age, helping the family make ends meet. He became a showman at the age of thirteen, working at Kohn and Middleton’s Dime Museum, which featured such “variety” acts as Adgie the Lion Tamer, John Kelly the Irish Comedian, General Tom Thumb the Midget, and Jonathan Bass the “Ossified” Man. Here, he learned how to perform sleight‑of‑hand tricks and to operate a Punch and Judy Show. Billed as “Johnny Nash,” he toured with the John T. Robinson Circus, travelling across Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana. When he was nineteen, in 1894, he struck out on his own, moving to Winnipeg, where he worked for Frederick Burrows, who owned a circus. He played fairs and carnivals during the summer and free‑lanced during the winter, travelling as far east as Montreal. In 1898, he married Nettie, Burrow’s youngest daughter, and the couple travelled to Vancouver, where they spent their honeymoon.

Finding the weather agreeable, Schuberg decided to settle in Vancouver, planning to open an umbrella repair shop. Business prospered, but he longed for the excitement of show business. Learning that a merchant in Seattle was selling an Edison projector, he resolved to become a movie exhibitor. He bought the machine for $250 and a number of Edison films, [17] including The Wreck of the Battleship “Maine” (1898) and Burial of the “Maine” Victims (1898), together with a number of stereopticon slides, featuring the major news item of the day, the Spanish‑American War. His timing was perfect. Thanks in large part to the “sensational” reports appearing in such newspapers as W. R. Hearst’s New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, North Americans were eager to watch films about noteworthy persons, places, and events.

Manitoba Free Press, 3 November 1917.

Schuberg later remarked: “I had reached the age of twenty‑three and my wife was eighteen, so we were really in on the ground floor of motion pictures but with little realization of the many [theatres] to be built in the following years.” [18] Schuberg rented a large building on West Cordova Street, located in the central business district of Vancouver, a city of about 25,000 people at the time. He set up the equipment near the front and hung a screen at the back, providing no chairs because his program of films would run for only thirty minutes. He opened the doors of the theatre to the public on 15 December 1898, charging patrons ten cents to watch a program of selected movies and slides of the Spanish‑American War, which he called “The War Show.”

Schuberg recalled that the films depicted the burial of the Maine victims, the Battle of San Juan Hill, in which Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders’ charged the Spanish in the forest, and the Battle of Matanzan. [19] However, at first people stayed away. Some were likely preoccupied with the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897–1898, which overnight had almost transformed Dawson City into the largest city west of Winnipeg; others were suspicious of the latest showman’s “gimmick.” To pique people’s interest, he promoted his show as if it were a sideshow. This meant producing a variety of sound effects: beating a bass drum, rattling a large sheet of metal to suggest thunder, and firing two pistols loaded with blank cartridges, so as to “add some realism” to the program. [20] He left the front door open, so that people on the street could hear the effects; this manoeuvre caught their attention, and soon he was playing to full houses.

Naturally, Schuberg resolved to exploit the commercial possibilities of the new medium. Like other showmen across the continent, he had only one set of films, so two weeks later he moved on, looking for audiences who had not seen “The War Show.” The Schubergs concluded that this would mean showing films in a black‑top tent at fairs and carnivals, which were becoming popular, and so decided to return to Winnipeg, where during the winter they could acquire such a facility. While motivated primarily by personal reasons, the Schubergs’ move to Winnipeg was nevertheless in tune with the dynamics of the prairie economy during this period in that Winnipeg was the gateway to the Canadian West, and as such was an important point on the American-based Orpheum, Sullivan and Considine, and Pantages vaudeville circuits. Thus, their move to Winnipeg made business sense.

On their way back to Winnipeg in 1899, the Schubergs stopped at small communities along the CPR line to put on movie shows; however, business proved to be uncertain. For example, the electrical power in Ashcroft was insufficient for running the projector; more precisely, that evening the electrical power went to pumping water into the large tank that made up the water supply for the community. The light was rather poor, so Schuberg stopped the show and refunded his patrons’ money. Next, he mounted a show in a hall over a printing shop in Kamloops, starting that Saturday at 7:30 pm. When no one showed up, he decided to attract attention by moving (at 8:00 pm) the projector to the balcony, where he ran the machine and lectured to an imaginary audience. People who had seen this charade soon packed into the hall. Schuberg recalled that customers, watching motion pictures for the first time, were not as enthusiastic as he had expected them to be; they liked the show, but said nothing about the machine. [21]

In Winnipeg, Schuberg and his father‑in‑law, Frederick Burrows, designed a black‑top canvas tent measuring 20 ft. x 60 ft. that seated 200 people. Hilary Russell writes that the facility contained an inner tent of black cotton, which kept the sun out on windy days. At the end of the show, the exhibitor raised the “sidewall” so that the audience could cool off. In addition, the exterior featured a marquee‑like banner on poles and fairly lurid paintings or posters advertising the movie inside. [22] Schuberg called this facility the “Edison Electric Theatre.” Later, he explained: “I may not have been the first to think up the black‑top tent, but I had not heard of any others.” [23]

Manitoba Free Press, 20 October 1917.

In May of 1899, Schuberg erected his black‑top tent in a vacant lot on the west side of Main Street, about one hundred yards north of Logan Avenue. At this time, the Winnipeg and the Grand theatres offered the public such fare as the James Neill (stock) Company and the Metropolitan Opera Company respectively. In addition, Elm Park offered such variety entertainment as band concerts. Schuberg presented “The War Show,” among the first movies screened commercially in Winnipeg, [24] presumably to take advantage of the crowds that had gathered for the Empire Day celebration on 23 May 1899. He later recalled that the money “came in so fast that it almost turned our heads.” [25] During the summer months from 1899 to 1902, he played fairs and carnivals in Manitoba, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and New Mexico. Schuberg had one of his best days at Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where (charging an admission of fifteen cents) he grossed a total of $615. [26] During the spring of 1900, he obtained copies of George Méliès’s films, A Voyage to the Moon (1902), based on Jules Verne’s famous novels From the Earth to the Moon (1865) and The First Men in the Moon (1901), and The Eruption of Mt. Pelee (1902), which captured the devastation caused by the eruption of Mt. Pelee on the French Caribbean Island of Martinique, and played an amusement park in Winnipeg, the River Park. These films generated much excitement. Exhausted by their travelling, the Schubergs returned in 1902 to Vancouver with a view to setting up a permanent facility for screening movies. It can be argued that he was the first of the travelling showmen in Canada to do so. [27]

While in Los Angeles in the summer of 1902, Schuberg visited Thomas L. Tally’s “permanent” facility, the Electric Theatre, located at 262 S. Main, opposite Third Street. [28] He may have noticed the advertisement in the Los Angeles Times (16 April 1902) describing Tally’s penny‑arcade as “a new place of amusement” that featured “up‑to‑date high‑class moving picture entertainment, especially for ladies and children.” [29] Tally screened such films as Capture of the Biddle Brothers (1902) and New York City in a Blizzard (1902), charging adults ten cents and children five cents admission. A year later, when Tally showed Edwin S. Porter’s film, The Great Train Robbery, he decided to sell the Electric Theatre and to take this hugely successful film on the road, showing it all over the west. Porter not only directed and photographed this one‑reel, ten‑minute‑long Western (on location at Paterson, New Jersey, in the fall of 1903) for the Edison Manufacturing Company, but also edited it, maintaining a high degree of suspense by intercutting between the outlaws who rob the train and the posse who apprehend the bad‑guys. [30] Eventually, Tally returned to Los Angeles, where he operated movie theatres for more than twenty years.

Taking his cue from Tally, Schuberg rented (for $1,000) an empty store at 38 Cordova Street, Vancouver, where in October of 1902 he opened the Edison Electric Theatre. He charged customers ten cents to watch a program of vaudeville acts and movies (he had only a few). Ackery explains that Schuberg hired George Case as his projectionist. The response to the program, which included two films, such as Méliès’ The Eruption of Mt. Pelee and Edison’s The Great Train Robbery, as well as illustrated songs, was enthusiastic. [31] Admission was ten cents. Schuberg printed a program (dated 16 February 1903) in which he announced that the Electric Theatre catered to “the refined” and that an usher would help ladies obtain desirable seats. [32]

Meanwhile, Schuberg and Burrows formed an amusement company geared to operating movies-andvaudeville theatres in Winnipeg. They opened the Unique, located at 529 Main Street, late in 1903, and Schuberg then sold the Electric Theatre in Vancouver to Fred Lincoln, later associated with the Sullivan and Considine vaudeville circuit. They opened the Dominion, located at 175 Portage Avenue in 1904, and the Bijou, located at 498 Main Street, in 1905, attracting much attention by screening The Great Train Robbery. Importantly, they arranged with a distributor in Minneapolis for one reel of film and three vaudeville acts per week. Business prospered, and they opened the Dreamland, located at 530 Main Street in 1909, and the Province, located at 209 Notre Dame Avenue, in 1910. Interestingly, a correspondent for the Canadian Film Weekly writes that the Dreamland was the first dedicated movie theatre in Winnipeg. [33] The Province, a facility measuring 40 ft. x 100 ft., accommodated 650 patrons. These theatres formed the nucleus of the Nash Theatre Chain, which eventually included eight theatres in Manitoba, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

The Dominion Theatre on Portage Avenue was one of Winnipeg’s busy movie venues, circa 1910.
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Winnipeg-Theatres-Dominion 1-1, N490.

Over the years, Schuberg employed a number of performers who later became movie stars. In 1906, he booked Al Jolson and Charlie Chaplin at the Bijou, paying the former $75 per week and the latter about $100 per week. Chaplin and his troop (of about twelve players) appeared in an act called Karno’s “A Night in an English Music Hall.” He booked these acts through the International Booking Office in Chicago, and later through the Sullivan and Considine Circuit in Minneapolis, which charged a booking fee. Being an independent operator, Schuberg opened his own booking office in the Tribune Building, Chicago. This was short lived, as Considine bought the circuit for $100,000. [34]

In 1914, Schuberg and W. P. DeWees, a Vancouver-based exhibitor, formed a partnership. In 1916, they opened the Rex Theatre, Vancouver, and in 1917 formed the First National Film Circuit of Western Canada, having secured the exclusive rights to distribute First National Pictures throughout Western Canada. [35] Schuberg served as the president and DeWees as the general manager of the exchange. They hoped that this arrangement would give them a distinct business advantage.

The First National Exhibitors’ Circuit came into being with the merger on 25 April 1917 of twenty‑six regional distributors across the United States who controlled over one hundred first‑run theatres in thirty cities, expressly challenging Adolph Zukor, who ran Famous‑Players Lasky and Artcraft Pictures, the giant motion picture studio. This group, led by Thomas L. Tally, opposed the distribution system known as “block booking,” whereby operators of first‑run theatres contracted to exhibit the entire Paramount line, accepting good films as well as bad, with little or no prior knowledge of the films in question. Thus, if exhibitors wanted the cream of the Paramount crop, they were obliged to accept a block of (say) 104 films each year. However, they would have no idea of what type of film they were going to screen until it arrived. The distributor offered as a reward for buying the complete line protection against simultaneous showings in their areas. [36] Soon, the organizers agreed to finance the production as well as the distribution of their own films. Under J. D. Williams, First National grew rapidly, handling the films of such “stars” as Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Milton Sills, and Richard Barthelmess, among others. (First National was taken over in 1927 by Warner Bros., who kept the name going until the mid‑1930s.)

In less than two decades, Schuberg had created the leading theatre chain in western Canada. According to a correspondent to the Moving Picture World, Schuberg and Burrows owned and operated a sizeable number of theatres in Manitoba, including three first-run theatres in Winnipeg, and controlled eleven theatres in British Columbia, including three first-run theatres in Vancouver and two first-run theatres in Victoria. However, in June of 1919 Schuberg sold his exhibition and distribution interests to the Allen organization for close to $1 million. Kirwan Cox explains that Schuberg had suffered financial losses at the box office, thanks to the closure of theatres during the flu epidemic of 1918 and to the Winnipeg General Strike, which affected unionized projectionists and musicians during the spring of 1919. Cox adds that Schuberg was also concerned about the labour unrest that was sweeping across Canada. [37] (This meant that the Allens controlled four first-run theatres in Winnipeg and operated forty-five of the best theatres in the country.) Schuberg took up ranching in the state of Washington, but years later he was back in the exhibition business, running the Strand Theatre in Vancouver. In 1924, he sold his theatre interests to Famous Players, agreeing to stay out of the exhibition business for ten years. He tried ranching again, but movie exhibition was in his blood, and he returned to Winnipeg, where he ran the Province and the Bijou for a number of years. Leonard Brockington, the president of Odeon Theatres (Canada) Limited, paid tribute to Schuberg at a banquet held in Toronto on 5 November 1952 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of movie exhibition in Canada and the United States. This tribute included an onyx‑and‑gold plaque inscribed with the words: “You helped rock the cradle of our industry.” [38] Schuberg died (on 13 December 1953) in Vancouver at the age of seventy‑nine, leaving his wife, Nettie, three sons, two daughters, and seven grandchildren.

Manitoba Free Press, 15 December 1917.

Conclusion

A variety of (converging) social, technological, and economic forces affected the transformation of the movie industry from a novelty into a global entertainment industry. The dynamics at work were in fact continental, affecting Canada as well as the United States. This transformation—in western Canada as elsewhere—took place over a couple of decades. A thorough account of this process, i.e., the commercialization of leisure-time activities in general and of movies in particular, would tell the story of entertainment entrepreneurs who, via the exhibition strategies they employed, encouraged the public to develop the movie going habit; the movie house owners, the entrepreneurs who financed the buildings and managed the businesses; the architects who designed these “special” environments; the movie producers and the “creative” people who made the films they thought the public wanted to see; the technicians who ran and the engineers who developed the equipment used by the producers and the exhibitors; the distributors, the entrepreneurs who circulated and rented the films to the exhibitors; and the audiences who claimed the medium as their own. As we suggested early on, travelling exhibitors such as Schuberg played a vital role in the movie industry, promoting (on a national level) the habit of watching movies. They enjoyed a short heyday, working smaller and smaller territories as more and more entrepreneurs established permanent exhibition sites during the Nickelodeon Era, from 1905 to 1913. [39] Many became projectionists, working for owners of these sites, but a few, such as Schuberg, became theatre owners themselves.

Notes

1. See The New York Times, 24 April 1896, 5. For a discussion of this event, see Terry Ramsaye, A Million and One Nights: A History of the Motion Picture. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1926; London: Frank Cass and Co., 1964, pp. 226-234; Garth S. Jowett, Film: The Democratic Art. Boston: Little, Brown, 1976, pp. 26-28; Tino Balio, ed.), The American Film Industry, rev. edn. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985, pp. 5-9; Gordon Hendricks, “The History of the Kinetoscope,” in Tno Balio, ed., The American Films Industry, pp. 43-56; Robert C. Allen, “The Movies in Vaudeville: Historical Context of the Movies as Popular Entertainment,” in Balio ed., The American Film Industry, pp. 67-69; Charles Musser, The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907. New York: Scribner’s, 1990, pp. 109-131; Douglas Gomery, Shared Pleasures: A History of Movie Presentation in the United States. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992, pp. 2, 7-8; James Trager, The New York Chronology. New York; Harper Collins, 2003, p. 248.

2. See Hendricks, “The History of the Kinetoscope,” pp. 48-51; Gomery, Shared Pleasures, 5. Interestingly enough, many of the moving pictures W. K. L. Dickson and William Heise made for the Edison Manufacturing Company can be viewed at the Library of Congress Web site. Visit “Edison Motion Pictures” at http://memory.loc.gov/ ammem/edhtml/edmvhm.html

3. The New York Times, 24 April 1896, p. 5.

4. Ramsaye, A Thousand and One Nights, p. 262.

5. Allen, “The Movies in Vaudeville,” pp. 80-81; Arthur Frank Wertheim, Vaudeville Wars: How the Keith-Albee and Orpheum Circuits Controlled the Big-Time and its Performers. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, xvii.

6. We distinguish between the Cinématographe exhibition that the Lumière brothers’ emissaries organised at the Palace Theatre, Montreal, on 21 June 1896, where admission was by invitation only, and the Vitascope exhibition that Edison’s representatives, the Holland brothers, organised on 21 July 1896, where admission was ten cents for adults and five cents for children. See André Gaudreault and Germain Lucasse, “The Introduction of the Lumière Cinémaotgraphe in Canada,” Canadian Journal of Film Studies 5.2 (Fall 1996): pp. 113‑123, for an overview of this debate. We base our discussion of the Vitascope exhibition in Ottawa on Ottawa Free Press, 20 July 1896, p. 1; Ottawa Evening Journal, 20 July 1896, p. 1; 21 July 1896, p. 1, 4; 22 July 1896, p. 1; Ottawa Free Press, 20 July 1896, p. 1; 21 July 1896, p. 8; Ottawa Daily Citizen, 21 July 1896, p. 7; Toronto Mail and Empire, 22 July 1933, p. 1, 4.

7. Ottawa Evening Journal, 22 July 1896, p. 8.

8. Morris, Embattled Shadows, pp. 3, 243‑244, 275.

9. Gomery, 11.

10. See Musser, The Emergence of Cinema, pp. 444‑447; Gomery, pp. 7‑18.

11. Kathryn H. Fuller, At the Picture Show: Small‑Town Audiences and the Creation of Movie Fan Culture. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996, p. 7.

12. Gomery, p. 11.

13. See Morris, pp. 11‑14; Fuller, At the Picture Show, pp. 25‑26.

14. Allen Theatre Enterprises “collapsed from within,” thanks in large part to the effects of losing the exclusive rights to distribute Paramount movies and of over-extending themselves. Famous Players acquired thirty-six of the biggest Allen theatres in 1923. See Hilary Russell, “All that Glitters: A Memorial to Ottawa’s Capitol Theatre and its Predecessors,” in Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History, no. 13 Ottawa: Parks Canada, National Parks, and Sites Branch, 1975, p. 115; Peter Morris, Embattled Shadows: A History of Canadian Cinema, 1859–1939. Montreal: McGill‑Queen’s University Press, 1978, p. 92; Manjunath Pendakur, Canadian Dreams and American Control: The Political Economy of the Canadian Film Industry. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1990, p. 61; Kirwan Cox, “The Rise and Fall of the Allens: The War for Canada’s Movie Theatres,” Lonergan Review 6 (2000): Robert M. Seiler “Movie Exhibition on the Prairies: The Case of the Allens, 1910–15,” Prairie Forum 31.1 (Spring 2006): pp. 71-84.

15. See Hye Bossin, “Canada and the Film: The Story of the Canadian Motion Picture Industry,” Canadian Motion Picture Year Book: 1951. Toronto: Film Publications of Canada, Ltd., 1951, p. 27; Manitoba Free Press, 27 February 1960, pp. 19‑20; Ivan Ackery, Fifty Years in Theatre Row. Vancouver: Hancock House Publisher Ltd., 1980, p. 55; Vancouver Sun, 15 December 1953, p. 16; Canadian Film Weekly (hereafter cited as CFW), 24 April 1963, pp. 4‑5; Russell, “All that Glitters,” pp. 12‑14; Morris, pp. 14‑17; Philip Dombowski, “Emmanuel Briffa Revisited” (MS dissertation, Concordia University, 1995), pp. 28‑29.

16. See the Calgary Albertan, 21 September 1963, p. 12.

17. See the Canadian Moving Picture Digest (hereafter cited as CMPD), 1 May 1940, p. 10; Vancouver Sun, p. 15 December 1953, p. 16; Winnipeg Free Press, 27 February 1960, p. 19; Ackery, Fifty Years in Theatre Row, p. 55.

18. Quoted in the CFW, 24 April 1963, p. 4.

19. Quoted in CMPD, 1 May 1940, p. 10.

20. Quoted in the Vancouver Sun, 15 December 1953, p. 16.

21. CMPD, 1 May 1940, p. 10.

22. See Russell, pp. 12-13. William H. Swanson claims that he opened the very first black‑top tent movie show, i.e., in Booneville, Indiana, in July of 1897. This travelling exhibitor said that he routinely exhibited movies in a tent lined with black cotton. Apparently, two problems affected his business: on hot days, patrons were often overcome with heat and during storms the rain washed the dye out of the canvas, thereby bringing an end to the show. Eventually, Murray and Company, tent makers, produced a permanently black‑top tent for him. Swanson writes that he later designed a red tent, equipped with a black cotton lining and ventilators in the top. See the Moving Picture World (hereafter cited as MPW), 15 July 1916, pp. 368‑369.

23. Quoted in CFW, 24 April 1963, p. 4.

24. See CFW, 24 April 1963, 4-5; Morris, p. 15.

25. Quoted in CMPD, 1 May 1940, p. 11.

26. Russell, 4; Winnipeg Free Press, 27 February 1960, p. 20.

27. Morris, p. 19.

28. See CMPD, 1 May 1940, p. 11; Russell, p. 17; Morris, p. 19.

29. Quoted in Ramsaye, p. 425.

30. For a fascinating study of Edwin S. Porter’s development as a filmmaker (he joined the Edison Manufacturing Company in the fall of 1900), see Charles Musser, “The Early Cinema of Edwin Porter,” Cinema Journal 19.1 (Autumn 1978): pp. 1‑38.

31. See CFW, p. 26 April 1963, p. 4; Ackery, p. 56.

32. Russell, p. 16; Morris, p. 19.

33. See CFW, p. 24 April 1963, pp. 4-5; Cox, “The Rise and Fall of the Allens,” pp. 60-62.

34. See CMPD, 1 May 1940, p. 11.

35. See CMPD, 1 May 1940, p. 11; 3 January 1953, p. 3; Ackery, p. 57.

36. Ramsaye, p. 790; Tino Balio (ed.), pp. 120‑121; Gomery, p. 38.

37. See the Manitoba Free Press, 15 May 1919, p. 15; 24 May 1919, p. 4; 26 May 1919, p. 4; 6 June 1919, p. 8; the MPW, 21 June 1919, p. 1782; Cox, pp. 60-62.

38. Quoted in the Vancouver Sun, 15 December 1953, p. 16.

39. Balio (ed.), p. 9; Morris, p. 21; Musser, pp. 444-347.

See also:

Memorable Manitobans: John Albert “Johnny Nash” Schuberg (1875-1953)

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