1896- Vitascope Hall opens in New Orleans as the first for-profit movie theater

July 26, 2022

On this day in 1896, the Vitascope Hall opened in New Orleans. This was the first for-profit movie theater in the United States and would also serve as a stage to show films shot in France and England. The theater hosted a group of people whose lives have gone on to shape history as we know it today. The Vitascope Hall has names like Thomas Edison, the Mayo brothers, and even William Randolph Hearst. The movie theater was a great success initially and showed off many of the new-fangled movies from Europe. That said, it was also a great success in its closing days. Most of the European films did not impact American audiences much, so business dropped off quickly.

Facts about 26,1896- Vitascope Hall

  • Brothers Robert and Jules Mayo built the theater, and in 1896, they became the very first to use the Vitascope, a film projector that could project moving pictures onto a stage.
  • A “Vitascope Hall” was located on Lyon Street near St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans. The theater opened its doors to the public on July 26, 1896.
  • Most of the movies shot in Europe did not impact American audiences much, so business dropped off pretty quickly. Many people had been to the Vitascope Hall at least once.
  • One of New Orleans’s most notorious characters owned the theater, Auguste Joseph Deyss.
  • Deyss performed circus tricks, worked as a bouncer, and served as a road agent for gambling hells and brothels around New Orleans.
  • A second Vitascope Hall was opened for business at 1048 Canal Street in New Orleans sometime between November 15 and December 16, 1901. The building burned down on December 31, 1903.

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