The Living Picture

An illustration of the Warwick Trading Company building, from the January 1904 issue of Talking Machine News.

Snippets 184.  An early publication concerning audio technology was The Talking Machine News, a monthly magazine for “users and makers of talking machines”; in other words, phonographs, or what we would now term “record players”.  We previously looked at a couple of quotes from a 1903 issue, but by that time there was already a rival to the phonograph in home entertainment, the cinematograph.  Responding to the increasing popularity of the visual entertainment medium, Talking Machine News updated their remit in January 1904, and adopted the tagline “Monthly Journal for Users and Makers of Talking Machines, Cinematographs, and Automatic Amusement Machines of all kinds.”  Firstly, let’s take a look at their explanation of what motivated the change to include cinematographs:

For the third time in eight months we find it necessary to enlarge our borders—this time by no less than sixteen pages. We were the representative paper for the talking machine trade at one bound, so to say. Indeed we have, as our readers will see for themselves, enlarged our borders in more respects than one; for we are commencing with the New Year a series of articles specially devoted to the cinematograph. We believe that these will not only bring us a new circle of friends, but that they will greatly interest the wide circle of old ones which we have already acquired. The “living picture” complements the talking machine just as the talking machine complements the cinematograph. They both represent in a high degree the resources of modern science devoted to a combination of amusement with instruction. We believe they will be happily joined; at any rate, we shall use our best endeavours to combine them in our columns to our readers and our own satisfaction.

Within the pages of the same issue can be found their first ever cinematograph article, concerning the Warwick Trading Company, a highly significant company in the history of the cinematograph.  The following is an interesting snippet from that article, which is in some respects remarkably accurate in its predictions:

There can be no doubt that the significance of the cinematograph is not yet fully recognised. The “living picture” has not only come to stay, but it offers endless possibilities and development as yet undreamed of. There is no reason why, at no distant future, we should not have the cinematograph in the home just as we already have the talking machine. Already you can buy a living picture machine for home use at a far lower price than you could buy a phonograph only a few years ago. Not, as I think, that the cinematograph in the drawing-room would be likely to oust the exhibition machine from its place. But it will supplement it. One can buy for a few pounds at the present time what is known as “a parlour cinematograph.” And the parlour, as everyone knows, is a grade lower than the drawing-room.

It was (writes Our Special Representative) with a view to learning something of the history and the latest developments of the living picture that I called at the offices of the Warwick Trading Company, 4 and 5, Warwick Court, the other day. This Company was the first to introduce animated picture machines into Europe, in 1894. Eighteen ninety four—and we are now only in 1904, and the cinematograph has already become a nightly and essential feature at every “well-regulated” music hall in the United Kingdom…

An extra film plant has recently had to be provided in order to cope with the demand from music-hall managers, and exhibitors in general, for prompt delivery all over the Kingdom of films of popular events. If negatives come to hand by four o’clock in the afternoon they guarantee from twenty five to fifty prints, according to length, for exhibition the same evening.

The demand varies according to the popularity of the subject. It ranges from one to seven hundred and fifty copies. Under ordinary circumstances they can turn out from fifty to one hundred within forty-eight hours of the receipt of the negative.

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About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
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