In the late 1800’s the inventions of still photography and celluloid photographic film helped to create a climate in which a number of inventors began to direct their creative efforts to the invention and development of the next photographic step: motion pictures.
In 1895 two inventors, Charles Jenkins and Thomas Armat invented a motion picture projector which they named the Phantoscope. Thomas Edison became interested in the new projector and agreed to manufacture it and produce films for it through his company (The Edison Manufacturing Company), provided he be credited with the invention of the projector. Edison renamed the projector the Vitascope.
The following year,1896, a movie theatre, named Vitascope Hall, was built in Buffalo, N.Y., using the new projector to show movies to the public (at 10 cents admission). On October 19, 1896, Vitascope Hall, a 72 seat theatre in the Ellicott Square Building on Main Street, Buffalo opened to the public.
The Illustrated Buffalo Express of Sunday, 18 October 1896 (p. 15, col. 2) reported:
VITASCOPE COMPANY WILL OPEN IT FOR HOURLY EXHIBITIONS TOMORROW FROM 10 A. M. TO 11.30 P.M.
There’s a theater in Ellicott Square now – a new Bijou theater, beautifully decorated in white and gold, with an inclined floor carpeted in Wilton velvet, nine rows of luxurious orchestra chairs arranged in sets of four on either side of the central aisle-72 in all – a handsome stage with an elaborate proscenium arch, lavishly carved and daintily decorated, rich maroon plush hangings, incandescent electric lights flooding the place with radiance, perfect ventilation and all the other accessories of a delightful place of entertainment.
This is Vitascope Hall, the new auditorium fitted up as a suitable place for the proper display of the marvelous possibilities of Edison’s wonder worker – the perfected Vitascope.
Beginning tomorrow hourly exhibitions will be given in Vitascope Hall, beginning at 10 a. m. and ending at 11.30 p. m., with weekly change of programme. The advertising columns of the papers will tell what to expect.
In connection with Vitascope Hall, and serving as a vestibule thereto, is the new Edisonia exhibition quarters at No. 305 Main Street, Ellicott Square.
The New-York State Vitascope Company, of which M. H. Mark is general manager, is sponsor for this new place of entertainment.
On Saturday October 22, 2011, from 1-2p.m. the 115th anniversary of this historic event will be celebrated – hosted by the Buffalo International Film Festival at the Ellicott Square Building, 295 Main Street Buffalo, NY 14203.
Tickets are available online free. For details of the event check: BIFF 2011 – FREE – Vitascope Theater 115th Birthday Party