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Media > Cinema-television > Chronology to 1960

Cinema-television chronology

Numbers after entries link to the list of references.


• Electric picture systems using mosaics of selenium photocells proposed by Ayrton and Perry in England and by George R Carey of Boston, USA.

Click for Picture page

 December 9  Cartoon by George du Maurier in Punch’s Almanac for 1879 captioned ‘Edison’s Telephonoscope (transmits light as well as sound)’ shows a wide-screen videophone conversion between London and Ceylon. It is barely a year since Edison's first major invention. The aspect ratio of the screen, incidentally, is 2.7:1, the same as Ultra-Panavision. Click on picture to enlarge
[Picture: Terra Media Archive]


• "Broadcast Listeners" Year Book forecasts 'The Wireless Musical Cinema' within two to three years.
Read the article.


 April 7  First public transmission of television pictures over telephone lines, using a prototype two-way television system, Picture Telephone, is made by American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) in US over 200 miles from New Jersey to Washington DC—the first public television demonstration outside UK. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover and the AT&T president Walter Gifford speak to each other. As well as being displayed on a small screen, the images are shown on an array of lamps three feet high and two feet wide, seen to the right of Dr Herbert Ives, head of television research at AT&T. Whilst the quality of the small images in the scanning-disc viewer were described by the New York Times as 'excellent', the large screen images were 'not so good' (NYT, 8 April 1927).
[Picture: AT&T]


• RCA begins work on large-screen television. (See 1930 January 16.)


 January 16   RCA demonstrates large screen television at RKO-58th Street Theatre, New York. The system employs a rotating-lens disc, Kerr cell and carbon arc light source giving a 7.5ft x 10ft of 60 lines.

 April   Cinema-television demonstration is given in Chicago by Ulysses A Sanabria. The images measures 2ft x 5ft.

 May 22   General Electric Company (GEC) screens a cinema-television demonstration at Proctor's Theater, Schenectady, NY. The system is similar to RCA's. The screen image of 6ft x 7ft is half the brightness of conventional carbon arc projection.

 July 28   First UK public demonstration of large screen television. Conducted by John Logie Baird at the London Coliseum variety theatre using screen composed of 2,100 lamps operated by mechanical commutator switch to give picture of 30ins x 70ins. The system is used in the theatre programme for three weeks.
click for picture Baird at the London Coliseum

 July 30   RCA installs large-screen television system at an RKO cinema in Schenectady, NY. The screen is five feet high.


 January 4  Baird demonstrates ‘zone television’, showing full-length figures and a cricket lesson by Herbert Strudwick.

 April 24  Lee De Forest files a US patent for a method of recording pictures, film or events ‘at the receiver by the etching action of an electrical discharge upon a suitable coating applied to a moving picture film or strip. The variable impulses of a video signal activates a series of needle points arranged around a revolving wheel. The varying pressure of the needle points on the surface of a 35mm film coated with pure metallic silver etches the image onto the film, which can then be displayed by means of a conventional motion picture projector.' The recording system is part of a research project to develop a large-screen television mechanism capable of projecting full-sized motion pictures. The project is abandoned due to the Depression, when the goal of theatre television was in sight.

 October 24  Ulysses A Sanabria gives a cinema-television demonstration at the B S Moss Broadway Theatre in New York. The 45-line image dissected by a scanning disc 3.5 ft in diameter with a spiral of 45 two-inch lenses produces an image 10ft square.


 June  John Logie Baird transmits pictures of the Derby horse race at Epsom to a large-screen television display at the Metropole Cinema, London. The demonstration transmission is over 25 miles to a 30-line 9ft x 6ft screen. The projector consists of a mirror drum with Kerr cell modulation of the light.

 November 8   Baird introduces a programme by Carl Brisson, the Danish film star, televised from Broadcasting House, London to the Arena Theatre, Copenhagen, Denmark—600 miles away.


• Fernseh AG demonstrates a continuously working intermediate film large-screen projection receiver. The system uses a continuous 70m loop of film which is exposed with an aperture disc and Kerr cell before being processed, projected, washed, dried, coated and re-exposed. The endless cycle takes six to seven hours to complete and gives a picture 3m x 4m.


 February  United Artists buys 50 per cent share in UK's Odeon cinema chain (150 screens—third largest) for £50.

 March 22  Germans begin regular television service of Reichs Rundfunk from studios in Berlin on 180 lines using only telecine transmission of film and an intermediate film system. It is seen only in public viewing rooms seating 30 people each—11 in Berlin, one in Potsdam. At a Telecinema in Berlin there is a 4ft x 3ft screen and seating for 100 people. A mobile unit is used for daily contributions to Spiegel des Tages evening magazine programme.


 January 4  Live television programming is shown on a screen 8ft x 6ft 6ins at the Dominion cinema in Tottenham Court Road, London from the Baird studio.

• Fernseh demonstrates direct-projection large-screen television with a picture area of one square metre.

 August 1-16  High-definition television broadcasts from the Berlin Olympic Games are seen by 150,000 people in 28 public television rooms in Berlin equipped with Fernseh 180-line cathode ray tube projectors giving a picture about 48ins x 42 ins.
Television at the Berlin Olympics

• Scophony is incorporated in the UK as a limited company.


 May 12 R R Law and Dr Vladimir Zworykin of RCA give a demonstration of large-screen television to the Institute of Radio Engineers in the USA. The projector uses a Kinescope tube, the designers having recognised that a different type of tube is needed for projection television than for domestic receivers.

 June Post Office and the BBC reject a plan by Cinema-Television Ltd to install large-screen television in Gaumont cinemas in UK, using the Baird system.


 February 4 First UK public demonstration of large-screen colour television. Presented as part of a variety show to an audience of 3,000 at London’s Dominion theatre by Baird, using a two-colour process giving a 120-line interlaced picture on a screen 12ft x 9ft, the programme is transmitted from the Baird studio at Crystal Palace in South London, eight miles away. No longer supported by the BBC, Baird Television Ltd is seeking to find new opportunities for years of development.

 August Fernseh demonstrates direct-projection large-screen television with 10 square metre picture. The demonstration leads to a contract from the German Post Office to equip a television cinema.


 January Direct projection television with a 15ft x 12ft screen is installed at the 1,190-seat Marble Arch Pavilion by Baird Company.

 January German Post Office Television Cinema begins continuous operation.

 February 23 BBC live boxing television transmission is screened at the Marble Arch Pavilion in London.

 April RCA includes a demonstration of projection television in its pavilion at the World's Fair in New York.
RCA projection television at the World's Fair 1939

• Dr Fritz Fischer of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology conceives an idea for a projection television system, which becomes Eidophor, and applies for a patent.
β 1943

• By the year end Baird Television Ltd goes into liquidation and is re-formed as Cinema-Television, without J L Baird on the board.


• A cinema short film, Ted Husing's Television Revue, anticipates cinema-television as a news medium. 'No longer will you have to stay at home from the movies just to hear what's going on in the world. Come to the movies to see and hear.'

• By the year end J L Baird, working on his own and financed from savings, has developed a high definition colour television receiver that can project an image 2.5ft x 2ft onto a screen.

• RCA demonstrates 441-line large-screen television producing a 15ft x 20ft image, using reflective optics at the New Yorker Theatre. A Madison Square Garden fight and Brooklyn Dodgers baseball game are shown.


 December 31   Television pictures are first projected successfully by the Eidophor large-screen system. The technology has been under development since 1939 at the Technical Physical Department of the Federal Institute of Technology, headed by Dr Fritz Fischer.
β 1944


 January 15   Patent is granted for the Eidophor television projection system.
β 1955


 March  Hankey Committee recommends temporary revival of a 405-line television service in the UK but advocates exploration of 1,000-line technology suitable for cinemas and of colour and 3-D, to replace 405-line monochrome as soon as possible.

 June 10  Baird demonstrates large-screen television at the Classic Cinema, Baker Street, London. His company is now located at 466 Alexandra Avenue, Rayner's Lane, Harrow, Middlesex. Four days later, Baird dies of pneumonia.

 June 19  RCA uses 525-line large-screen television to show the Joe Louis-Billy Conn boxing match to 3,000 people at Princeton, NJ. Sponsored by Gillette, the broadcast is seen by an estimated audience of 150,000 on 5,000 receivers.


 spring  'The only person who could give the film industry a lead was J Arthur Rank, who was the biggest producer, renter, and exhibitor, and I went to see him. ... I told him what we wanted, which was chiefly newsreels, occasional shorts, and access to library material ... on the ordinary commercial terms, and I described what we could do for films: for instance, reviews of the new films illustrated with well-chosen shots. He told me that he wanted to use television to distribute his films to his cinemas and to do live shows from a central studio; he was more concerned with that than with out use of films.'
    [Maurice Gorham: Sound and Fury] [0044]


 April   RCA demonstrates its latest version of projection television at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
RCA projection television at NAB 1947

 July  RCA signs an agreement with Twentieth Century-Fox and Warner Bros for research and development of a direct-projection large-screen cinema television system.

 December 10   Paramount Pictures gives a demonstration of large-screen television using 35mm film recordings made off-air in an intermediate film system.


 April  Surprise public exhibition of a 15-minute newsreel using intermediate film large-screen television at the Paramount Theatre, New York. Television pictures—re-photographed on 35mm film from a 10-inch cathode ray tube and fed through a machine which develops, fixes, washes and dries it before entering a conventional projector—reach the 18ft x 24ft screen in 66 seconds. The screen used is larger than the average cinema screen at this time.

 May  Warner Bros demonstrates a large-screen television system made by RCA, producing a 15ft x 20ft image.

 June  Direct projection large-screen television is installed by Twentieth Century-Fox at the Fox Philadelphia theatre to show instantaneous pictures of Louis-Walcott fight relayed from New York over 100 miles away.

 July  Paramount announces incorporation of large-screen television using an intermediate film system as part of its regular entertainment policy.

• In the ‘Paramount consent decree case’, the US Supreme Court rules that for producers and distributors also to own cinema chains amounted to ‘price-fixing conspiracies’. Distribution companies have to dispose of their exhibition interests. This also has the effect of killing off any idea of the Hollywood majors controlling or buying into television.

• Scophony-Baird Ltd, of which Baird Television is a subsidiary, is located at Lancelot Road, Wembley.


 April  RCA-Fox-Warner large-screen television system is demonstrated to the Society of Motion Picture Engineers convention, New York. The projector system uses a 12-inch cathode ray tube with a 21-inch spherical mirror and correcting lens capable of throwing the picture between 45 ft and 80 ft.

 July 27   RCA signs a contract with Fabian Theatres for the installation of television projection equipment capable of showing live transmissions. 

 August   In a document entitled 'Television and the Cinema', prepared for the Beveridge Committee on the future of broadcasting, the BBC states firmly that 'the place of television is in the home'.

• UK's largest cinema operator, Rank, commissions a company in Chicago (still unidentified) to manufacture large-screen television systems for commercial use in cinemas. [0035]


 April 28   Further BBC evidence to the Beveridge Committee is given in answer to a written question from the committee: 'Is the objection of the BBC not so much to television in the cinema as to the cinema itself as one of the most powerful modern agencies for miseducation, whose power the BBC does not wish to increase in any way?'
        The BBC's written response: 'The Corporation's view is that the rediffusion of BBC television programmes in cinema will only be of benefit in the pioneer stages of television to consumers who are not able to see television in their homes. The possible benefit is limited by the likelihood that the cinemas would only rediffuse a very small proportion of the BBC's programmes. Beyond this, there is the possible use of television, either a means of distributing films from a master-copy at a central point to cinemas all over the country, or as a means of providing a separate television service to the cinemas consisting of material which does not now figure in the cinema programme. The use of television by landline for such purposes would not affect the BBC's broadcast service. Any form of broadcast television would, on the other hand, interfere with the BBC's service.'

 May 5  In oral evidence to the Beveridge Committee on the future of broadcasting, the BBC's Director General Sir William Haley again opposes the idea of film companies being allowed to screen television programming, including live sporting events, in cinemas 'for fear they would make a corner in them and take them out of the home. ... Expensive competition would be inevitable in the short run and in the long run there would be a rival and sponsored general television service. The alternative was for the BBC to supply its own television programmes of sporting and other events for the cinemas. ... We feel that we can actually give far more to the cinema than we can get from it.'

• First ‘electronic film’, La Boutique, is made on monochrome 600-lines television, by High Definition Films of London.


Telekinema May 4-September   As part of the Festival of Britain, the Telekinema [right] shows live large-screen transmissions of interviews from a nearby studio. As its name implies, the 400-seat cinema is equipped for large-screen television projection as well as conventional and stereoscopic 35mm film.
[Photo: BFI]

• Dutch electronics firm Philips promotes its projection television system, which produces an image 4ft x 3ft.
Philips projection television 1951


September 23   Heavyweight boxing bout between Rocky Marciano and Jersey Joe Walcott is screened to paying audiences on large-screen television in 49 cinemas in 31 US cities.

• Large screen television systems are already installed in 75 theatres across America, with a further 122 reportedly on the way. In fact, fewer than 100 in all are ever equipped and rarely used. The phenomenon is already dying out. Paramount and General Precision Laboratories cease production of intermediate film television systems for cinema use. Hollywood is turning to other ideas, such as wide-screen, 3-D and stereophonic sound.


 June 2   Cinema-Television, the Rank-controlled successor to Baird Television, shows the Coronation coverage on large screens to capacity audiences in a number of cinemas around the country, including the Gaumont Haymarket, Marble Arch Pavilion, the New Gallery in London and the Gaumonts in Doncaster and Manchester.


 December 2   Coverage of an England v Germany football match is televised by the BBC but because of Football Association objections, only the last 35 minutes is transmitted to homes (and without prior announcement). However, the whole match is shown by Cinema-Television on large screens in eight cinemas around England, five of them outside London, including the Gaumonts in Manchester and Doncaster. Total audiences of 13,000 attend, reaching about 75 per cent capacity in the provinces.


• Two Eidophor television projectors are installed in a New York cinema as part of a deal that will see the machines being manufactured by General Electric at its plant in Syracuse, New York.


 March 14-15  First US concert by The Beatles (supported by The Beach Boys)—'filmed' on 11 February at the Coliseum in Washington DC—are shown on 'closed circuit' cinema screens across the US by CBS, two shows each day, promoted by National General.

 September 23-24   Electronovision's recording of Richard Burton as Hamlet is shown twice daily for two days only in 991 US cinemas, with a reported box office gross of $3m.

 October 29  Electronovision process is used to record The TAMI Show (Teen Age Music International) at the Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, California. The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, James Brown, Jan and Dean, Marvin Gaye, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Lesley Gore, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Rolling Stones and The Supremes are recorded for posterity. The theatrical film is released in a wide-screen version. Two edited versions, apparently made by cropping the wide-screen version, are released on videocassette and laser disc in 1982 by UPA Productions with the title That Was Rock. Another show, The Big TNT Show, is recorded by Electronovision later in the year at the Moulin Rouge in Los Angeles, featuring Joan Baez, Bo Diddley, The Byrds, Ray Charles, Petula Clark, Donovan, The Lovin' Spoonful, David McCallum, The Ronettes and Ike & Tina Turner. It is released theatrically in 1966.


  Cinema-television index

Page updated 28 January 2009