ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Entertainment and Media»
  • Movies & Movie Reviews

Tally's Electric Theatre

Updated on February 9, 2012

The world's first Movie Theater

On April 2nd 1902 the world’s first theater built exclusively for the showing of movies was opened at 262 South Main Street, Los Angeles. Tally’s Electric Theater was to change the way the world was entertained and eventually to how the world gets its news. A humble store front in California, that is all it was, began a revolution of the kind that would have been unimaginable to Thomas Lincoln Tally when he set out on this venture. Previously, moving pictures had been shown in France and in other parts of the United States, what Tally did was to be the first to construct an establishment built solely for the purpose of showing movies.

Los Angeles can still claim to be the Movie capital of the world. Wherever and whenever you travel around the city you are likely to find a screening of some kind in progress. Everyone knows about Hollywood and actors are familiar faces with the public eager for details about the most sordid facets of their lives. Our fascination with such details has meant that actors in stable marriages with healthy social behaviors rarely make the news. From the Cinema to Television, the overthrow of governments and social unrest must share the stage with an actor seen having a cup of coffee with someone not their spouse. It all began with a downtown storefront. But first:

Thomas Alva Edison

Thomas Alva Edison is usually associated with the invention of the incandescent light bulb. For the lovers of quotations he is known for the phrase; “Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” He was a prolific inventor holding 1093 patents, an entrepreneur and an astute businessman. Included in his many achievements is the invention of the moving picture.

In 1878 Edison invented the sound recording and producing Phonograph. In the same year he was granted the patent for a moving picture camera called a “Kinetograph” He then went on to put the two inventions together and produced a peephole viewer known as a “Kinetoscope” In 1891 he began placing the Kinetoscope in Penny Arcades where people could watch short movies. Then in 1896 Thomas Armat’s Videoscope, a projector that could show pictures on a screen, built and marketed by Edison, was used at business demonstrations in New York City. Edison then went on to exhibit moving pictures mechanically synchronized to a soundtrack. The Kinetoscope soon entered Europe where thousands were sold. The Videoscope was also becoming popular as a sideshow but there was no building specifically designed and built for the showing of movies. Not until Thomas Lincoln Tally opened his shop in Los Angeles.

Tally's colorized

Tally's Interior

Tally's Electric Theater

Thomas Lincoln Tally was a showman, an astute businessman and entrepreneur. He saw the potential for moving pictures and opened his Theater in downtown Los Angeles. His advertisement read; “New place of amusement…High class Moving Picture entertainment…Especially for ladies and Children!” Admission was 10cents for an hour long sitting that included “The capture of the Biddle Brothers” and “New York in a blizzard” On the first day the Theater opened from 7:30pm to 10:30pm but demand was so high that from the next day he had to run matinees.

His advertisement, run on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, March 10th 1902 reads:

Capture of the Biddle Brothers
NEW YORK CITY IN A BLIZZARD, THE HINDOO FAKIR and many other interesting scenes.
A REFINED Entertainment for
Ladies and Children
Continuous Performance 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
T.L. Tally, Mgr.
Phone John 7191”

Great Train Robbery

Shooting the Audience

The World would never be the same

Tally went from strength to strength, building on his success he had the idea of forming an organization of movie exhibitors, one from each city, who would buy, or make, their own films and distribute to each other. He presented his idea to another exhibitor, James D. Williams of West Virginia. He liked the idea and joined forces with Tally. They called their enterprise; “The First National Exhibitors Circuit.” Their office was set up at 18 East 41st Street in Los Angeles. With the motto; “The good guys get, by getting together.” Tally was the first to show a color movie in 1912 and he was the first to sign Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford to a movie contract.

Moving pictures swept the world and have become a part of world culture. Los Angeles became the movie capital of the world and all because of a storefront in downtown Los Angeles.

The Great Train Robbery

The success of the venture continued and a year later the Theater was re-named “The Lyric Theatre” Advertising “Refined vaudeville…New moving Pictures…Continuous performance”

Then came a movie sensation; “The Great Train Robbery” The movie was only 12 minutes long, it told of a daring train robbery by a gang of outlaws and how the local posse chased them down and brought them to justice. A huge crowd pleaser was a scene where one of the outlaws fires his gun straight at the audience.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      So very interesting.

      A vote up and thanks for sharing; here's to many more.

      Diolch am shario!!!

      Take care and enjoy your day.


    • iantoPF profile image

      Peter Freeman 5 years ago from Pen-Bre, Cymru/Wales

      Diolch yn fawr iawn Eiddwen;

      Thank you for being the first to comment. I had been working on this one for a while. Now it's back to the continuing story of the Lady of the Fountain.

      Best Wishes................Peter

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

      I loved this terrific story. You told it wonderfully well, too. I learned some interesting things today. Thank you for this pleasure. Tally's was a beautful place.

    • iantoPF profile image

      Peter Freeman 5 years ago from Pen-Bre, Cymru/Wales

      Thank you James! I appreciate the time you take to read my offerings. I am glad you enjoyed the Hub.

      Many Bright Blessings.

    • profile image

      Andgela 2 years ago

      Thanks for the e-book. I grew up listening to Johnny Paycheck sing this song and saw him live many eons ago- of cosure a mantra like that sticks with you. I currently live moment to moment, having not made great choices in the past, but never-the-less, I'm determined to make my life a much bigger success than it is so far. As it is, it's a work in progress- of cosure- but this boat is listing and I'd like to get er upright and steady. Finding sites like yours has helped me realize that my unconventionality that has made conventional behavior and habits so challenging is actually a good thing and not necessarily a curse after all- I've just got kinks to work out in the form of bad habits to curb and some tweaking to do in the form of building a stronger income.Nice site- keep up the great work.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 4 weeks ago from Norfolk, England

      That was really interesting to read!

    • profile image

      Katherine Ingram 6 days ago

      T.L. Tally was my great, great uncle. I grew up hearing about the framed check on his wall of his Hollywood home to Charlie Chaplin for a million dollars. What a gift to learn more about him here! My parents used to visit T.L. and his wife Mamie in the 1940's.

    Click to Rate This Article