1920's  The Beginnings



The first 16 mm movie ever filmed was "A CHILDS BIRTHDAY PARTY" in 1921 by J.G. Capstaff, Kodak research employee, to test the potential of the new gauge & to show to George Eastman.  

[A segment of the film below]





In January Eastman Kodak announces to the public, "that a new system of amateur film making based on a new 16 mm film size will soon be available to buy".  After 8 years of research by J.G. Capstaff of the Eastman Kodak Laboratories. Kodak

introduces 16 mm reversal film on acetate (safety) base and the first 16 mm projector. In May the 16 mm film, the Kodascope 16 mm projector & Cine-Kodak 16mm motion  picture camera were shown to the photographic trade and by July 5th the 16 mm equipment was being advertised in the New York newspapers.  with the headlines "The Cine-Kodak Makes Motion Pictures."


The popularity of 16 mm movies was immediate resulting in a chain of Kodak processing laboratories throughout the world. The Kodascope projector & the Cine-Kodak camera, with a tripod included cost a very expensive $335.00. The average  person couldn't afford the package, considering a basic new Ford automobile cost $550.00 in 1923.  Kodak was originally going to use  a 17.5 gauge, pioneered by the  French Pathe Company, which was  half of  35mm,  but  16  mm was finally  chosen because of safety reasons, since 35 mm was on a nitratestock, making it  flammable  & dangerous for home use. Kodak chose the uneven 16 mm, to discourage the cutting  of 16 mm film from the unstable 35 mm stock.  After discussions with researchers from Victor &  Bell & Howell, Kodak decided that 16 mm should be made only on a safety based stock called acetate. An important  decision Eastman Kodak made to promote the newly available 16 mm film  format, was to not only agree to process film in their own cameras, but film shot on rival cameras. 



Bell & Howell, a company formed in 1907, by theatre projectionists Donald J. Bell and Albert S. Howell, on a investment of $5.000, making 35 mm equipment for the theatre industry, moves into the non-theatrical field in 1922  when the company works on perfecting a 16mm projector & camera introduced in  late July, the "Filmo 57" 16mm projector. Throughout the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, Bell & Howell was the leader in film equipment. 

 The Victor Animatograph company, founded in 1910 by Alexander F. Victor. Victor was always interested in developing film equipment for non-theatrical use, actually introduced a 35mm home movie projector and camera called the Animatograph in 1914.  Then got involved with the 28 mm film gauge in 1918, and a 28 mm home movie outfit called the Victor Home Cinema in 1919 and finally in August 1923 was the 3rd company to get into the 16mm Home movie market, with it's "Victor" 16 mm model. 


The first feature film filmed in 16 mm for the home market was "THE BROWN  MOUSE" produced by Homestead films. It was advertised in ads as “A real feature for the Non-Theatrical field” The film is considered lost today.


 The Film Prayer by A.P. Hollis 

was written in 1920. Hollis made the poem available to all non-theatrical film distributors to promote better handling of film.  Hollis never copyrighted the poem. 

I am celluloid, not steel, Oh God of the machine, have mercy, I front dangers whenever I travel the whirling wheels of the mechanism. Over the sprocket  wheels, held tight by the idlers, I am forced by the motor's might. If a careless  hand misthreads me, I have no alternative but to go to my death. If the pull on  the take-up reel is too violent,  I am torn to shreds.  If dirt collects in the aperture my film of beauty is streaked and marred, and I must face my   beholders-A thing shamed and be spoiled. I travel many miles in tin cans, I am tossed on heavy trucks,  sideways and upside down. See that I don't become bruised and wounded beyond the power to heal.  I am a delicate ribbon of film - misuse me and I disappoint  thousands; cherish me, and   I delight and instruct the world. A.P. Hollis  1920                  






Formed in 1924 by William Beach Cook. Kodak begins operating  THE  Kodascope Libraries  in the spring of 1925,  around  various  parts  of  the  country  in regional offices and local  camera  stores. An early precursor to the  video tape rental store, Kodak leased negatives of fine grain  prints from  a  variety of Hollywood  producers  and  made  stunning amber  and  sepia  tinted  prints for rental purposes. If a person wanted to join the library, there was a fee of $25 which was  refunded  when  the  customer  decided  to end  the  service.  All the features used for Kodascope printswere professionally edited  and  ran  no  longer  than  5 reels,  shorts  and  cartoons  were generally unedited. During the years the Kodascope Libraries  are in  business,  over  700 films  are listed  in the catalogs,  including the shorts of  Larry Semon, Charlie Chase, Laurel  &  Hardy, Felix  the  Cat  cartoons,  Fleischer's  Out  Inkwell series, & Charlie Chaplin comedies. Many of the great features of the 1920's could be rented including  




The first catalog is published in 1925 with  new editions following in 1926,1928,1930,1932, 1936,& 1938.  The catalogs cost 25  cents  &  were over 100 pages. An interesting forward  in  the  catalogs states; "Kodascope films are 16 m/m (5/8 inch) in width and are made on  slow  burning film, which is free from insurance restrictions and does  not require fireproof booth".   By 1933  3 catagories were available-16 mm  silent, 16 mm sound & 8mm  silent.   As  with  most  film libraries opening in the next few years the Kodascope Library operated with the subtle intent of selling more of Kodak's new 16 mm Kodascope projectors  by  making  a  greater  number  of  films  available  for  owners  of  home  projectors.  In 1932 an 8 mm library is





The first group of features acquired by Kodak for the new Kodascope Libraries in May 1926 were 5 features from Warner Brothers:


  In June 1927 they acquired the first group of Paramount releases.       







According to the Guinness book of records, the first In Flight movie was First National's production of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's ‘The Lost World' shown, in 16 mm, on a Imperial Airways Flight  a WWI converted Handley-Page bomber, during a 30-minute flight from London to the Continent in April of 1925









Universal, the first major film company to discover that old prints from their vaults could be  reduced to 16mm to make money, forms a company called   SHOW-AT-HOME MOVIE LIBRARY INC. Universal offered complete prints in 16 mm for rental thru camera stores and non theatrical film libraries  Their 1928 brochure  proudly proclaimed:


 "A New Era in Movies For the Home" Show-At-Home takes pride in the quality of entertainment it will offer. The quality is second to none. Show At Home looks forward with anticipation to the many happy hours it will bring to American homes". Variety mentions in a March 14th 1928 article that Universal will yield a gravy profit of approximately  $50 per reel, per year, per print, will result in a considerable expansion in that field. At present Universal is only covering 10% of the country. In New York libraries have been established at Gimbels & Macys.





 was so successful that Universal received complaints from theatre exhibitors about unfair competition. Some theatre exhibitors actually went so far as to successfully sue Universal.   Some obscure Universal titles offered for rent were 



1926, "THECLEAN  UP" 1923, "THE GOOSE WOMAN" 1925,  "COHENS & THE 

KELLYS" 1926  "THE CAT & THE CANARY" 1925        


       Click on the  projector  to take a look at the SHOW-AT-HOME MOVIE LIBRARY INC. 















With increasing demand from Kodascope Library members to make 16 mm films available for sale, Kodak bows to pressure, and introduces Kodak Cinegraph 16mm films for both sale & rental In May 1927. When first introduced a 100 ft film cost $7.50 and a 400 ft. film cost $30.00, by the late 30's the prices actually  decreased, with a 100 ft. film at $5.00 and a 400 ft. film at $20.00.    









A 35 mm religious film distributor formed in 1916 becomes  Ideal Pictures Corp..  in 1927 & discovers the newly popular 16 mm market. By the early 1940's it is the largest 16 mm distributor in America, a position it held till the early 1960's when Films Inc,  takes the throne New Era Films a 35 mm religious film distributor formed in 1916 becomes  Ideal Pictures Corp.  in 1927 & discovers the newly popular 16 mm market. By the early 1940's it was the largest 16 mm distributor in America, a position it held till the early 1960's when  Films Inc. took the throne.

DeVry introduces their silent 16mm projector, The company founded by Herman DeVry in 1914, originally introduced a portable 35mm projector, that was unique for it’s time, that it could be carried in it’s own suitcase, making it easier for school use or for traveling sales men.







After 2  years  of  experimenting  with  16 mm  in  schools  by  the  Eastman Kodak  Company- Eastman Teaching Films is incorporated by Kodak in 1928 with Dr. Thomas E. Finnegan as president and general manager, and 16 mm  films  are  part of the classroom and a regular part of the educational curriculum, with hundreds of films being produced yearly. By 1933 it is absorbed by the parent company and becomes a part of Eastman Kodak.





Color  film becomes  a  reality  for  amateur  cinematographers  with  the introduction of  16mm Kodacolor. Kodak bought the rights  to  the  old Keller-Dorian process in 1925 and spent most of three years developing it. Initially the Model B Cine Kodak was  the  only  camera  in  which Kodacolor could be used, but a short-lived Kodacolor version of the Model A appeared more than a year later at the end of 1929.









In July 1929, the Kodascope Libraries acquired the 16mm rights to THE LOST WORLD from First National . The original lavender protection positive itself was edited down to five reels, about 55 minutes to create the abridged 16mm Kodascope version. This abridged Kodascope version was the only one widely known to survive in the U.S. until a more extensive (but still incomplete) original tinted, toned and hand-colored 35mm print was found in 2003 in the hands of a private collector and purchased by Film Preservation Associates.



The first AMERICAN IN-FLIGHT MOVIE is on October 8 1929. Shown on a transcontinental airline  called "Ford Transport", in 16 mm, are  several shorts including a Universal newsreel.  

Ampro Corporation is founded by Axel Monson

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