In fact the studios had been experimenting with all three technologies since the 1920s.
Cf. History of Theater Television, Box n° 67, folder: Theater TV, FCC Hearing (History), Sponable Collection, Columbia University.
Anna McCarthy (2001) has writen about the history of television in public spaces in her book « Ambient Television: vision culture and public space ». She describes the use of television in the United States in public spaces such as taverns, bars, restaurants, department stores, shopping centers, waiting rooms and airports. According to McCarthy, in the 1940s, a number of companies, such as DuMont, RCA, Philco and General Electric, developed large-screen receivers (both projection and « direct view ») to accommodate the bar’s collective viewing situation. One company, the United States Television Manufacturing Corporation, even specialized in receivers for public places. McCarthy claims that for motion picture exhibitors, television « turned the tavern into a theatrical space for viewing images, one that was not subject to the same heavy licensing laws and fees as movie theaters » (McCarthy, 2001: 46).
McCoy John E., Warner Harry P., « Theater Television Today-Part I », in Hollywood Quarterly, vol. IV, n°2 (Winter 1949), p. 161, Anderson Christopher, « Television and Hollywood in the 1940s », in Schatz Thomas, Boom and Bust: American Cinema in the 1940s, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1999, p. 426.
In 1942, Paramount and General Precision (20th Century-Fox’s single largest shareholder) helped organize the Scophony Corporation of America with the specific purpose of developing theater television.
« Television Developments », 1946 Film Daily year Book, p. 75.
Douglas Gomery (1992: 232) suggests that the RCA, recognizing that the picture quality obtained by its direct projection system was hardly up to the standard of 35mm projection, sought theater situations of no more than one hundred people. In July 1949, Billboard review of the Walcott-Ezzard Charles heavyweight fight at the Brooklyn Fabian Fox Theater before an audience of 4 000 people pointed out that « the image was somewhat less satisfactory than that which can be obtained on home TV receivers, but it was easily good enough for the purpose ». Cf. Billboard, 2/7/1929, p. 14.
Paramount first demonstrated its version of an intermediate-film process shown by Fernseh at the 1933 Berlin Radio Exhibition, in December 1947. The TV image, after reception in the theater, was reconstituted on a cathode-ray tube and photographed on a continuous loop of film coated with emulsion by an orthodox intermittent camera. The exposed film was passed from the camera into a 90 foot per minute developing machine, in which developing time was cut down to a few seconds by raising the developer to a high temperature. After fixing, washing and drying, the film travelled immediately into a normal film projector. The 35mm print could then be edited and reused. For the description of the process see Raymond Spottiswoode, Film and its techniques, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1951, p. 368-370.
Gomery, 1992: p. 232. See also Richard Hodgson, Theater Television system, in Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, vol. 52, nº5, May 1949, p. 540-548.
Billboard, 24/9/1949, p. 4.
Variety, 4/7/1951, p. 5.
Variety, 12/3/1952, p. 15.
Variety, 12/3/1952, p. 4.
Warner ended its partnership with RCA after ordering several systems for its theater chains from 1947 to 1951. Although the studio had planned a theater television network of some 25 theaters, it would install television systems in only thirteen of its theaters in the following years. Cf. Variety, 11/5/1949, p. 26 and Variety, 30/12/1953, p. 33.
Indeed, the system was supposed to deliver a luminosity of 5000 lumens as opposed to 1000 lumens for the black and white RCA. According to Fox’s chief engineer, Earl Sponable, the Eidophor had a capacity for 1000 lines of resolution and was capable of maintaining the same luminosity level over an average screen or a screen eight times larger. Cf. New York Times, 3/10/1951, p. 40 and « Skouras, Sponable Disclose Details of Fox Deal for Development of Eidophor », in Film Daily, 26/2/1951, p. 1, 4.
History of Theater Television, Box n° 67, folder: Theater TV, FCC Hearing (History), Sponable Collection, Columbia University.
New York Times, 3/10/1951, p. 40.
On Fox’s strategy regarding the Eidophor see « The Widescreen Revolution and Twentieth Century-Fox's Eidophor in the 1950s », in Film History, vol. 15, no. 1 (2003), p. 32-56.
RCA had equipped a certain number of major theater circuits in the USA such as the Fabian group, the Radio Keith-Orpheum circuit and the American Theaters Network.
For a more detailed discussion of the FCC’s involvement in the failure of theater television see Gomery (1984), Hilmes (1999) and Kitsopanidou (2002).
This was part of the RCA demonstration organized back in 1941 for film distributors and exhibitors.
Mechanics Illustrated, August 1941, p. 48.
Gomery, 1984: 223. Average cost for a 70 min program was estimated at $150 000.
Herald Tribune, 20/7/1951.
Cf. Televisionotes, Television Department, MPPA, « The Louis-Savold Theater Telecast », 18/6/1951, box n° 58, folder: Motion Picture Association of America, H. J. Schafly to E. I. Sponable 18/6/1951, box n° 64, folder: Theater Television, general, 1952-1962, Sponable Collection.
Variety, 2/1/1952, p. 48.
Houses in Boston, Binghamton, Detroit and Minneapolis did not receive the event because of insufficient line clearance. Cf. Billboard, 16/6/1951, p. 8.
Variety, 1/10/1952, p. 4, 23.
TNT, according to Variety, grossed $1,35 per seat (1/10/1952, p. 23).
Variety, 30/12/1953, p. 31
Insufficient line clearance and high cost of building up new lines for the occasion limited the theater line-up to a little over 60 theaters. The actual line-up represented, according to Variety, 98 % of the available TV theaters (15/9/1954, p. 34).
Variety, 4/1/1956, p. 42.
Back in 1881, the Theatrophone in France, a popular attraction at the International Electric Exhibition in Paris, brought live performances of the Opéra, the Opéra Comique and the Comédie Française transmitted by telephone lines into rooms in the Palais d’Industrie three evenings a week. Several Theatrophones were then installed in public spaces such as hotel lobbies, bars, clubs and hospitals in France. In 1890, the Theatrophone became available as a service to individual subscribers at home and thrived until 1920 broadcasting operas (Bertho, 1984: 80-81).
As opposed to the use of 15 cameras for the opera and one for the intermission in today’s digital cinemacasts.
Cf. Variety, 10/11/1954, p. 20, 17/11/1954, p. 3.
As was the case with heavyweight championships and football series, box-office receipts split between the theater television content provider and the exhibitor would have been 50-50 %.
Cf. Variety, 3/6/1953, p. 3 and Variety, 22/9/1954, p. 1.
Cf. Variety, 6/11/1954, p. 3
Skouras quoted in Variety (20/7/1951).
Cf. Billboard quoting Nathan L. Halpern, TNT’s president in January 26th 1952.
Billboard, 24/9/1949, p. 4.
National Theater Supply reported unsold equipment as the year 1953 ended. Cf. Variety, 30/12/1953, p. 31.
Variety, 4/1/1956, p. 42.
Variety 16/9/1953, 30/12/1953.
Cf. Variety, 10/6/1953, p. 18. To boost off-hours use of theater space, both TNT and BOTV acquired portable units from General Precision (Cf. Variety, 15/12/1954). Variety reported in July 1953 that 53 companies in 12 major industries had shown interest in conducting business meetings simultaneously in many cities (Variety, 15/7/1953, p. 4). A Ford Motor convention in 1954 was transmitted to 39 theaters, each earning approximately $3 500 in rentals. According to Variety, despite competition from hotels and television studios, exhibitors were getting straight rentals for use of space and equipment of about $400 to $750 (Cf. Variety, 29/9/1954, p. 18). In February 1954, Sheraton founded the Sheraton Closed-Circuit television company in order to exploit closed-circuit television in twelve cities.
Variety, 5/1/1955, p. 51.
R. A. Klune to Earl Sponable, 17 August 1951, box 73, folder: General, 1949-1951, SC, p. 3.
The equipping of movie theaters never reached more than one percent of the nation’s theaters (Boddy, 1992: 24).
Prior to 1910, in many of the venues showing motion pictures, movies were not the only attraction. Films were also shown in other kinds of theatrical spaces (vaudeville theaters, opera houses, churches, social clubs, etc.).
S. H. Fabian, president of Stanley Warner Corp. quoted in Variety (Variety, 6/11/1954, p. 3).
« Once you have a dish on the roof, it allows you to turn a theater complex into a networked entertainment center that you can program almost like a cable channel ». Cf. « Alternative content rides digital delivery into theaters », http://www.thewrap.com, 5/4/2011.
The worldwide success of Avatar by James Cameron in 2009 has led to the rapid acceleration of digital cinema conversion.
David Hancock, « Global options: alternative content gains momentum in cinemas worldwide », http://www.filmjournal.com, 12/5/2010. Haut de page