Figure 1.29

The Vitascope at Koster & Bial’s

There were in fact two vitascopes in use at Koster & Bial’s Music Hall in April 1896: while one machine screened a subject, the next scene was loaded on the other projector (a two-minute process). Each 20-second film was spliced into a loop so that it could be run repeatedly (with the most popular subjects being played six or seven times at some later screenings). Although reviewers tended to compare projected peephole images to “ordinary, everyday stereopticon images,” the vitascope promotion of projected images at Koster & Bial’s was a commercial success (helping Edison’s agents to sell rights to exhibitors throughout the country). The Kinetoscope Co. promoted the heightened realism of vitascope “reproductions,” and spectators’ delight in moving life-size images sparked interest in motion pictures as a popular source of amusement. A plaque commemorating the first vitascope screening identifies the location of the Koster & Bial's building; the site, at Broadway and Thirty-fourth Street, is now occupied by Macy's Department Store.

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