Our World’s Culture Changed
April 2, 1902: World’s First Movie Theater Opens
On April 2, 1902 the world’s first theater built exclusively for the showing of movies was opened at 262 South Main Street, Los Angeles. Tally’s Electric Theater changed the way the world was entertained.
It was just a humble store front in California, but it began a revolution of the kind that would have been unimaginable to
Thomas Lincoln Tally when he set out on this venture. Previously moving pictures had been shown in France and parts of the US usually via temporary storefront spaces and traveling exhibitions. What Tally did was to be the first to construct an establishment built solely for the purpose of showing movies.
Furnishing these first theaters was an easy matter; often a sheet for the screen, ten or twelve rows of benches, a box for collecting admission (hence the term “box office”) and a curtain separating the “lobby” from the screening room sufficed.
Thomas Lincoln Tally was a showman, an astute businessman and entrepreneur. He saw the potential for moving pictures and when he opened his theater in downtown Los Angeles he advertised as:
New place of amusement…High class Moving Picture entertainment…Especially for Ladies and Children!
Admission was 10 cents for an hour long sitting that included “The Capture of the Biddle Brothers” and “New York in a Blizzard”. On the first day the theater opened from 7:30 pm to 10:30 pm but demand was so high that from the next day on he had to run matinees.
The advertisement he ran on the front page of the March 10, 1902 Los Angeles Times read:
ELECTRIC THEATER – 262 SOUTH MAIN, OPPOSITE THIRD ST. – CAPTURE OF THE BIDDLE BROTHERS – NEW YORK CITY IN A BLIZZARD – THE HINDOO FAKIR and many other interesting scenes. A REFINED Entertainment for Ladies and Children – LASTING ONE HOUR FOR Ten Cents. Continuous Performance 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. – T.L. Tally, Mgr. – Phone John 7191
The success of the venture continued and a year later the theater was re-named “The Lyric Theatre” Advertising “Refined vaudeville…New moving Pictures…Continuous performance”
The first big movie sensation was; “The Great Train Robbery”. The movie was only 12 minutes long and told of a daring train robbery by a gang of outlaws and how the local posse chased them down and brought them to justice. A huge crowd pleaser was the scene where one of the outlaws fires his gun straight at the audience… Oh My!