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Making The Program - the Motion Picture Program de Luxe

By S. L. ROTHAFEL
Creator of the Motion Picture Program de Luxe

NOT so many years ago, fifteen to be exact, I was running a little movie show behind a barroom in a mining town in Pennsylvania. It was a one-man show. I paintea- my own displays, ran the projection machine, and sometimes walked miles to the nearest exchange to get the pictures.

Even then, I had confidence in the entertainment value of the motion picture—as much, I think, as I have in my present capacity as director of productions at the world's largest theater—not only the largest one consecrated to the Motion Picture muse, but the largest devoted to any theatrical enterprise.

A Picture Theater of Today circa 1920

A PICTURE THEATER OF TODAY

The interior of the largest theater in the world, the Capitol, New York City. It is devoted exclusively to the photoplay, a far reach from the nickleodeon of a few years ago.

In the West, I tried out my ideas for the making of a new sort of program, and met with encouraging success. Later, in New York, I presented a motion picture with appropriate music, harmonious lighting effects, and other features designed to please the sensek.

Finally a formula for program-making was worked out that covered the field of music, general news topies, drama, comedy, education, dancing, and architectural effects. The American is appreciative of the beautiful, but he is impatient, and will not sit through a long, tedious performance. He wants his entertainment well done, but quickly done. The type of performance that suits him and attracts him is marked by rapidity and diversion.

If someone had predicted a dozen years ago that an orchestra, a chorus, soloists of international reputation, scenic artists, and a large mechanical staff would one day be part of the organization of a "movie" house, the prophet would have been called an irresponsible visionary. As a matter of fact, he was! And yet this very thing has come to pass.

When, in 1914, the first theater was erected in New York under my supervision, for the purpose of presenting the moving picture in a modern, aesthetic setting, there were dire predictions of failure. A great structure splendidly decorated and equipped for the showing of motion pictures. Rash and impractical! The idea and ideal of a dreamer!

The Capitol Theater, New York, has 5300 seats. Its grand orchestra numbers eighty musicians. There is a chorus and a ballet. When we presented the master photoplay, "Passion," 175,000 came to see it during the two-weeks' run.

Producers spend millions to stir the jaded patron. A production into which dollars have been poured like water does not necessarily yield the big story, the continental success. When truth, humanness and good taste replace unreasonable extravagance; the moving picture becomes an unparalleled medium for the promotion of culture, education, and the highest form of beauty.

Source: THE MENTOR, Volume 9, Number 6, July 1, 1921, Page 33

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