"It was the year of 1912. To place it in the perspective of time, remember it was the year of the Titanic disaster, the discovery of the South Pole, the election of Woodrow Wilson and the Rosenthal murder in New York. Motorists still wore linen dusters. Skirts were ankle length. There was a new war in the Balkans. It was the year of the tango eruption, and the year of 'Alexander's Ragtime Band' and 'Call Me Up Some Rainy Afternoon.' It was about the end of the Middle Ages in screen history" (594) - Terry Ramsaye, 1926.
While the blockbuster Christmas premiere, like so much of movie history, was decades off, there were still movie viewing opportunities spread across the country for the moving picture enthusiast on Christmas day one hundred years ago.
While I don't know how well attended any Christmas show may have been in 1912, the movie had penetrated the masses by this time:
"The motion picture show has become a stable factor in modern life. Few citizens, however, realize the magnitude of the business which has been developing rapidly within the last six or seven years. It is estimated that there are not less than 14,000 of such theaters in this country ... To meet the popular demand, a new film is manufactured every sixty minutes. The average daily attendance has been estimated by a writer in 'World's Work' to be at least 4,000,000 as against the 750,000 who daily patronize the regular theaters." - Pastor McIlyar H. Lichliter, April 24, 1912.
The advertisements reproduced below ran in newspapers across American towns and cities between December 23-25, 1912. At least the movie house proprietors running these ads must have expected some Christmas business.
Since you and I have been captured in some way by the movies I expect there would have been a good chance of us meeting up at one of these shows. Weather permitting, at least:
"The old gentleman of the sleigh and Christmas sack, who children believe in and department stores the world over religiously and romantically exploit, shook out of the Winter sky yesterday the biggest and finest snowstorm this city has had since Jan. 14, 1910, and covered New York City with a blanket of downy white 11.8 inches thick for his reindeer to travel over, insuring for New Yorkers after his chimney visits last night the first 'white Christmas' they have had since 1909." -- New York Times, December 25, 1912.
I have a feeling I may have been snowed in for Christmas 1912 here on Long Island! Not a likely scenario according to the Christmas 2012 forecast.
Here's what was playing, one hundred years ago at Christmas:
Fort Wayne Sentinel, December 24, 1912, page 6.
Logansport Journal Tribune, December 25, 1912, page 2.
Paul J. Rainey's African Hunt
The making of these pictures was an incident of an expedition by Paul J. Rainey or Philadelphia, coal dealer and sportsman ... The Rainey hunt pictures helped importantly to prove that the scope of the screen was not limited to the trivial one and two reel films which dominated the market offered by the nickelodeon theatres .. The Rainey hunt paved the way to the screen for such notable adventure subjects as ..." (Ramsaye 600).
Rushville Daily Republican, December 24, 1912, page 5.
Algona Upper Des Moines, December 25, 1912, page 5.
Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, December 23, 1912, page 3.
Muscatine Journal, December 23, 1912, page 4.
Vintage Advertising Card promoting WHAT HAPPENED TO MARY
Greenville Daily Democrat, December 23, 1912, page 12.
Anaconda Standard, December 24, 1912, page 14.
Mansfield News, December 24, 1912, page 15.
Titusville Herald, December 25, 1912, page 5.
See where Maurice Costello falls on the Barrymore Family Tree
Yup, exactly 103 bags of candy. Don't be the 104th one through the door on Christmas Day!
Salt Lake Tribune, December 25, 1912, page 7.
Sheboygan Press, December 24, 1912, page 8.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season!
- "Christmas Traffic in a Foot of Snow." New York Times 25 Dec 1912. New York Times Archives. Web. 23 Dec 2012.
- Lichliter, McIlyer H. "Religion and Modern Life: The Moving Picture Show and the Community." Sullivan Union 24 Apr 1912: 3. NewspaperArchive. Web. 23 dec 2012.
- Ramsaye, Terry. Million and One Nights: A History of the Motion Picture Through 1925. First Touchstone Edition. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986