1940's  16 mm goes to war & TECHNICOLOR


Los Angeles is  the 35mm theatrical capital of the world,

Chicago in the 30's, 40's, 50's & 60's is considered the 16 mm 

home movie capital of the world.  Most of the major companies 

originated  &  has  their corporate  headquarters  there, including:  


'Films Incorporated', 'Bell & Howell', 'Victor Animatograph Co.', 'Ideal Films Inc', 'DeVry Inc', 'Coronet Films','Ampro Corperation' ,'Walter O. Gutlohn Corperation', 'Encyclopaedia Britanica Films', & 'Library Films Inc.'.  'Blackhawk'  began life  in a Chicago suburb before moving to Iowa. There were also smaller companies to numerous to mention. 








"Panoram is a movie jukebox. You put in a dime and get a 3  minute movie short, with sound, called a 'soundie'. Proclaimed Look magazine in the November 19, 1940 issue 


16 mm Soundies were conceived in 1940 and introduced in Jan. 1941. Soundies were 

produced by several  companies including  Minoco, Globe, and RCM Productions, headed by 

FDR's son James Roosevelt, Herbert Mills,& Sam Coslow a song writer.  If you were a teenager on a date or

out with friends at the local soda shop,chances were you would come across a contraption called the Panoram, a wood cabinet Jukebox machine. You would toss in a coinand using rear projection a musical number would appear on the screen, usually the popular & not so popular big band & vocalists of the day. Eight soundies  were spliced together on a reel which ran in a continuous loop. One reel was released each week, with more hitting the Panorams at holidays and other peak periods. The top Black performers of the day including Fats Waller, Dorothy Dandridge, The Mills Brothers and Nat King Cole as well as future stars Because of the War, the unpopularity of soundies with Movie exhibitors & 

problems with the Film Projectionist Unions, Soundies finally came to an end in the summer of 

1947. More than 2,000 were produced from 1940-46, most  by the Soundies Distributing 

Corporation of America. Today they are very collectable 16 mm items. 






Walter O. Gutlohn Inc. was the first company to offer soundies for limited  sale & rent in 1942. Striking a deal with the Soundies Distributing Corp. the company sold them with the reversed titles. 


Beginning in 1945 Castle Films sold new prints Soundies to the home market, under the name 'Castle Music Albums'. Each Castle reel contained 3 soundies, usually with the same theme, with all original titles removed.  . Some of the compilation titles were ‘Songs Of The South’,’Romantic Melodies’,’ Rhythm In Rhapsody’ ,’Songs Of The West"  A total of 101 different soundies were acquired from the Soundies Distributing Corp.

In 1947 Official Films scooped Castle and took over the copy writes and ended Castle Films association with Soundies. Official Films sold new prints under the name Musical Film Revues, they were sold in groups of 3 numbers, and like Castle films, corrected the backward image and removed all the original credits. Official also issued many individual Soundies with their original titles, Official promoted the name Soundies in their advertising and on the film packaging, but the Soundies name doesn’t appear on the films themselves.  

Blackhawk Films sold used copies of the original prints shown in the Panoram in the late 1940’s. 

By the early 50’s they sold over 300.000 soundies by acquiring collections from film libraries.

A survey in 1940 by the Motion Picture Division, Department Of Commerce said that in American high schools & colleges, 6,059 silent 16 mm projectors & 6,384 sound 16 mm projectors are in use.



In the late summer Cine-color, established in 1932, as a result of the financial failure of 

Multicolor Corp, installs equipment for making 16mm, & 8mm two color prints. Cine-color

uses  two negatives in the camera and prints are made direct from the original negative without recourse to intermediate films.




The first company to make use of the new 16mm Cinecolor process is Castle Films in 1942.

Castle’s catalog that year includes 12 Ub Iwerks Comi-color cartoons. (click on ad below) The

price in stores for a brand new  complete 16mm Cine-color Castle cartoon is $33.50. Cine-color

had the range of blues & reds but lacked the greens, a much better process than the 2 color

Dunning system. By 1951 Castle ends their association with Cine-color and stops selling the Cine-color cartoons when the company abandons it’s 2 color process for their new 3 color system called  Super Cine-color introduced in 1948, In 1954 Cinecolor goes completely  out of business

and its assets are bought by Technicolor.


Warner Brother used Cine-color for a short time in 1948, when Technicolor went on strike, for several of their cartoons. Hal Roach also used Cine-color for some of his short subjects produced in 1947-48



                                                      example  of  Cinecolor Film                 


CLICK ON AD BELOW   for a Castle Cinecolor ad     







World War 2



World War 2  provided a huge expansion for 16 mm films. 

The War proved  that 16mm was fully capable of doing the job 

of instructing and entertaining the inductees of the Army, Navy and Air Force. The Armed Forces practically filmed the whole war in 16 mm. War training films were commissioned by the government in 16 mm and production of them moved into high gear.  Suddenly the demand for 16mm  brakes loose. The armed forces were producing more 16mm film for training films than all of the Hollywood film Industry.  All branches of the armed 

services demanded more projectors than all the factories could 

supply. All production materials were soon given high priority. 

The film producers were called upon to supply 16mm prints of 

even late releases, for entertainment of the services. Studios, 

processing laboratories, libraries, mushroomed into action.  On 

the home front  Castle Inc. made a killing selling a variety of 

battle footage in short subjects, with such exciting titles  like:  








Kodak  begins printing Kodachrome color  for commercial use, color shorts, travelogs,

cartoons & features from all the major studios, by the middle 1940's 16mm Kodachrome color 

is part of all rental libraries.


May 10 1942  MGM's Tarzan's New York Adventure was the first film shown free to servicemen overseas.

                          A 16 mm copy was sent to Iceland and shown 10 May 1942.




IB Technicolor  is introduced  in 16 mm.  for  the home  market  including  the armed forces  &  schools  Blue Track Technicolor   was  distinguished  by  it's  bright  blue soundtrack, unfortunately the soundtrack tended to fade over time, resulting in a lose 

of sound. 16 mm Blue Track Technicolor was printed in 35 mm and cut  from the center of a 35 mm print, then sliced right down the middle, so two 16 mm prints would be made from one 35 mm print, this process lasted until 1955. 




                                                          Example of  Blue Track IB Technicolor film     






is formed in 1943, The new company is off and running with a gift from the Eastman Kodak 

Company, 250 silent films from the Eastman Teaching  Films of the 1920's. Second only to 

Coronet Films, Encyclopaedia Britannica takes it's film making very seriously, According to a 

Boxoffice magazine article in 1944, the company will not release any pictures to schools that 

distorts incidents or characters for the sake of entertainment. By 1970 the company has produced over 1.280 films.  




Like direct to video features of today,  the 16mm  industry made films for the non theatrical market. SUNDOWN RIDERS, a full length 16 mm feature,  (56 minutes)  is released by a company  called Major 16mm Film Productions. Filmed in Kodachrome color, the western stars Russell Wade, Jack Kirby  & Andy Clyde, direct Lambert Hillyer,  it cost $30.000 & was filmed in 8 days. Alas, the 16 mm market was not of sufficient size and scope in 1944 to warrant a full years' worth of "Sundown  Riders". Riders was picked up and released in 1948 by Astor for theatrical 35mm showings.


MGM  begins distributing their features & shorts in 16 mm around the world except the U.S. because the  motion picture exhibitors considered 16mm a box office threat. It would be another 10 years before MGM would release any 16 mm feature film in this country.


Film World a trade paper for the 16mm industry begin's publication.      



  is the second major release in 16mm   Kodachrome color. Produced and released by Planet Pictures Inc. Adventure film is set in the tall timber country, The cast includes John Day, Nancy Brinckman, Eddie Kane and supplying comedy relief is perennial scene stealer of Hollywood westerns Si Jenks, Film is released for unrestricted showings everywhere in December.





 16mm Film  Go's To Church



One of the most rapidly developing phases of 16mm non theatrical production is the religious educational film. Currently this field is attracting almost as many producers as the educational, business and training films field, While there are instances of individual churches and religious groups producing their own films, producers such as Cathedral Films of Hollywood, founded in 1939, are making  notable progress, their films having found notable acceptances among churches throughout the nation. 


Typical of this movement is the noteworthy work done by the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and other states. Paul Kiehl, of the Missouri Synod relates the problems faced in this unique church undertaking. "No one has ever heard of laying out $50.000  in cold cash for a religious film-not even Hollywood. The need was there, but who would take the chance. There was no box-office guarantee on returns. It had never been done before. We got the money-and in eight short production days it was spent. But we had a film nearly an hour long".


THE POWER OF GOD was the first religious feature produced professionally in 16mm by any Protestant church. It can be safely said that it is now making history in religious films." 


THE POWER OF GOD  was produced for the Lutheran Synod of  Missouri by Roland Reed Productions of Hollywood. Independent producers of church  films are always heartened by news of progress in the realm  of 16mm devotional pictures.







       Coronet Films is formed in 1946 by David Smart, a magazine publisher & founder of Esquire magazine, always fascinated with 16 mm film & education, he combines the two & begins producing educational films. The first film the company produces and releases is the classic, campy SHY GUY starring a 19 year old, future Bewitched star Dick York. Smart's company becomes the leading producer of educational films. Coronet shot all of it's films in color and released them both in black & white & color. Coronet produced it's last film in 1968, but continued selling films from it's library.  By 1973 Coronet sold it's one-millionth film.  In the 1980’s Paramount bought  Coronet Films.

Universal buys Bell & Howell's Filmosound Library,  who in turn gets out of the rental business. Universal then incorporates it into their new 16 mm rental outlet United  World Films. They also acquire Castle films the  following year..   


RKO is the next major studio to distribute it's films in 16 mm, but like MGM, worldwide, not the U.S.  

McGraw Hill Book Company is the first publishing firm to get into the 16 mm field.

Sterling Films  is founded by Saul Turell & Robert Rhoades, The company produces & 

distributes 16mm educational short subjects



CLICK HERE   for a 1947 advertisement of  UNITED WORLD FILMS

Cinema 16 ,one of the first 16 mm film societies is formed by Amos Vogel in New York City, The societies aim was not only to show to the public great artistic films but to present documentaries to make people aware of the world around them. By the end of the decade there are  over 200 16mm film societies in the U.S.  




1947 report by William Kruse President, Allied Non-theatrical Film Assoc. for FILM DAILY YEARBOOK on the state of the 16mm Film Industry in 1947

The 16mm motion picture is being put to work by more educators, clergymen, club-leaders, doctors, sales managers, engineers & just plain folks than ever before. The largest percentage of increase in the narrow film industry is among full-time audio visual education specialists in schools & colleges, from 175 in 1946 to 1,000 in 1947,  film libraries have increased from 376 to 425, film whole sellers from 35 to 70. Projector manufacturers  are today able to turn out more 16mm sound projectors than had been produced all told prior to W.W. 2, 1948 should add 50,000 to 80,000 new 16mm sound projectors to the possibly 80,000 now in use in the U.S.A.

 On the entertainment front there is virtually no known user of any form of 16 mm film that does not on occasion use his projector for the showing of entertainment film. He may buy such films outright from his local camera store, borrow then from his library, or rent them from regular 16mm channels. One library alone offers over 5000 titles for rent.  There are more than 4.000 retail establishments in the USA where 16 mm films can be obtained. Although none of these films coincide with current theatre fare, some exhibitors look upon any non-theatrical showing of entertainment film as a box-office threat.

Nothing has ever been seen like the unique capacity of the 16mm film to go right out where the people are- in church, or school, or home- and tie right into their regular way of life while demonstrating all the while what a fine thing the movies really are.......




Ansco color is made available in 16mm & 10 million feet is expected to be

processed in 1949.







The first and only time a home movie company makes IB Technicolor available to collectors, unfortunately briefly, is Castle Films in 1949 & 50. Castle makes a deal with Technicolor to release, probably at Universal's urging, nine Walter Lantz cartoons (2 Woody Woodpeckers, & 7 Swing Symphony's) in the stunning color process. The Blue Track Castle cartoons looks great but the expense is very high and Castle's association with TECHNICOLOR ends in 1951.



And after the war ads for 16 projectors were popping up like never before in magazine

click on examples below: 


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