On this Day in Movie History April 2, 1902: First Motion Picture Theatre Opens

On this day, April 2,1902 the first permanent motion picture theater opened in Los Angeles. Thomas Lincoln Tally’s Electric Theatre charged a dime to see an hour’s entertainment, including the films, “The Capture of the Biddle Brothers” and “New York in a Blizzard”.
Tally also co-founded the First National Exhibitors Circuit in 1917.

The First National Exhibitors Circuit was an association of independent theater owners in the United States that expanded from exhibiting movies to distributing them, and eventually to producing them as a movie studio, called First National Pictures, Inc.

Founded in 1917 by the merger of 26 of the biggest first run cinema chains in the United States of America,the First National Exhibitors’ Circuit eventually controlled over 600 cinemas, more than 200 of them so-called “first run” houses (as opposed to the “second run” neighborhood theaters to which films moved when their first run boxoffice receipts dwindled).

The brainchild of Thomas L. Tally, who was reacting to the overwhelming influence of Paramount Pictures, First National dominated the market. Tally soon partnered with West Virginian James Dixon Williams. They formed First National Exhibitors Circuit.

Adolph Zukor of Paramount Pictures was threatened by First National’s financial power and its control over the lucrative first run theaters and decided to enter the cinema business as well. With a $10 million dollar investment, Paramount built their own chain of first-run movie theaters after a secret plan to merge with First National failed. First National Exhibitors’ Circuit was reincorporated in 1919 as Associated First National Pictures, Inc. and its subsidiary Associated First National Theatres, Inc., with 5,000 independent theater owners as members. In the early twenties, Paramount attempted a hostile takeover, buying several of First National’s member firms.

Associated First National Pictures expanded from only distributing films to producing them in 1924, and changed its corporate name to First National Pictures, Inc. Warner Bros. acquired access to the First National’s affiliated chain of theaters, while First National acquired access to Vitaphone sound equipment. But the trademarks were kept separate, and films by First National continued to be credited solely to “First National Pictures” until 1936.
Although both studios produced “A” and “B” budget pictures, generally the prestige productions, costume dramas, and musicals were made by Warner Bros., while First National specialized in modern comedies, dramas, and crime stories.

In July 1936, stockholders of First National Pictures, Inc. (primarily Warner Bros.) voted to dissolve the corporation and distribute its assets among the stockholders, in line with a new tax law which provided for tax-free consolidations between corporations.

From 1941 to 1958, most Warner Bros. films bore the combined trademark “A Warner Bros.-First National Picture.”

1908 – Buddy Ebsen (Christian Rudolph Ebsen) (actor: The Beverly Hillbillies, Barnaby Jones, The President’s Plane is Missing, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Red Garters, Stone Fox, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; died July 6, 2003)

1914 – Alec Guinness (Alec Guinness de Cuffe) (Academy Award-winning actor: The Bridge on the River Kwai [1957]; The Empire Strikes Back, The Lavender Hill Mob, Star Wars, A Passage to India, The Quiller Memorandum; died Aug 5, 2000)

1920 – Jack (John Randolph) Webb (director, actor: Dragnet, Pete Kelly’s Blues; actor: Sunset Boulevard, The Halls of Montezuma; died Dec 23, 1982)

1927 – Rita Gam (Mackay) (actress: The Thief, Klute, Midnight)

1945 – Linda Hunt (Academy Award-winning actress: NCIS: Los Angeles, The Year of Living Dangerously [1983]; Silverado, Dune, Popeye, Kindergarten Cop, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Flying Nun)

1949 – Pamela Reed (actress: Junior, Kindergarten Cop, The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Right Stuff, The Best of Times, The Goodbye People, The Long Riders, Bob Roberts, Grand, Family Album, The Andros Targets, Getting Out)

1953 – Debralee Scott (actress: Police Academy, Just Tell Me You Love Me; died Apr 5, 2005)


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