The Electric Theater (America’s First Full-Time Movie Theater) Opens in California

April 2, 2022

On April 2, 1902, Hollywood began with the opening of the Electric Theater in California. Founded by a man named Thomas Lincoln Tally, the theater forever changed the way people watched movies.

Prior to that time, movies were mostly only shown as a part of vaudeville acts. They were very short things back then, usually only lasting a few minutes. However, the vaudeville strike of 1901 sent the entertainment industry into chaos, and theater owners were desperate for something to take the place of vaudeville. Tally figured that people would pay to come and watch just the movies, so he opened his theater for three hours every evening to show them.

Tally had no idea how right he was about the public’s appetite for movies. His shows sold out every night. The demand for movies was so great that he had to expand his hours into the daytime. The daytime screenings also sold out. Soon, other theaters were following his lead, and movie theaters sprang up everywhere. This, of course, led to an even greater demand for movies, which led to production companies springing up to make longer, more involved movies. Before long, Hollywood came into existence.

Tally stayed at the forefront of the moving pictures revolution. He was the first to show a color film in 1912. He co-founded First National Pictures and even managed to sign Charlie Chaplin as a studio actor early in his career. Modern moviegoers owe a big debt of gratitude to him.

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