Tally's Electric Theatre
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 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:
“ELECTRIC THEATER – 262 SOUTH MAIN, OPPOSITE THIRD ST.
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
LASTING ONE HOUR FOR Ten Cents.
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.