April 1902: Thomas J. Tally’s Electric Theatre, the first permanent structure built in the United States for the purpose of viewing motion pictures, is opened to the public in Los Angeles. The details are a bit sketchy–maybe it opened April 2, maybe it opened April 16–but the general consensus is that this was the first movie house. According to one source, audiences shied away from the prospect of sitting in a dark theater just to watch a film. The art form was only seven years old, and vaudeville still reigned supreme. The original structure on Spring Street is no more, but the first piece of architecture created solely for viewing film remains in history as a testament to the struggles of the early film industry.
April 1924: MGM Studios is founded. Although the date for this is also unsure–company’s website says April 1924, another source April 16, another says April 17–the impact of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios on the development and history of American film is rock-solid. The studio has a total of 205 Academy Awards, and is responsible for several seminal films, including Gone With The Wind, Wizard of Oz, West Side Story, Rocky and Silence of the Lambs. MGM also has an impressive library of early cartoons, helping to establish favorite characters like Tom and Jerry, and Droopy Dog.
April 23, 1876: First US patent issued for the Zoetrope, to William Lincoln from Milton Bradley & Company. The machine is a wheel with pictures printed on the inside; when looking at a fixed point while turning the wheel, the images appear to move. As such, the Zoetrope served as the foundation for future developments like the Praxinoscope, Zoopraxiscope and Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope which was used to project his short films to mass audiences. The Zoetrope was sold as a children’s toy, and today you can still make your own–click here and scroll down for a group of helpful links. It might not seem like very complicated technology today, but film had to start somewhere!