New Orleans History -- Lake Pontchartrain
Saturday, April 29, 2017
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1896 First Movie in New Orleans

New Orleans, in its illustrious history, has had the distinction of celebrating many firsts. In fact, jazz, the very first art form in North America, was born in New Orleans. Just as virtually everyone knows that New Orleans is the birth place of jazz, the opposite holds true in the fact few people know that the very first movie theatre in North America was also in New Orleans.

The first movie in New Orleans was shown on an outdoor screen on the lakefront June 28, 1896, by Allen B. Blakemore, an electrical engineer for the New Orleans City and Lake Railroad. Blakemore reduced the five-hundred-volt current from the trolley line for his wonderful vitascope machine by way of a water rheostat.

On July 26, 1896, the first permanent home for showing movies in the United States was opened at 623 Canal Street, corner of Exchange Alley. The name of the theatre was Vitascope Hall. Cost for admission was 10 cents. For an extra 10 cents, you could get a look into the booth where the man was operating the vitascope. If you really wanted to splurge, for another 10 cents you could get a frame of discarded film. Some noted people said it was a fad that would soon pass. The theatre accommodated 400 people and had two shows per day. The first was from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The theatre was reopened at 5 p.m. and stayed open until 10 p.m. Movies in 1896 were not long movies like today. They were made up of little skits strung together very loosely. They usually consisted of a fight scene, a floozy doing a hoochy-coochy dance, slapstick comics, and possibly even an embrace ending with a long, lingering sensual kiss.

Source: Buddy Stall at http://clarionherald.org/20000316/stall.htm