Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Kinetophone

This is a short publicity notice for the Kinetophone, which, at the beginning of January 1913, Edison was gearing up for release to the vaudeville circuit. As was typical of his statements on moving pictures (see the previous two entries), Edison here emphasizes the democratic potential of the device, which had the capacity, he claimed, to cross barriers of both distance and income. Nevertheless, Edison had no real plans to put this device into the moving picture theaters. He sold the distribution rights to the B.F. Keith circuit, which thus ensured that the device stayed in the (relatively expensive) vaudeville theaters or, at any rate, would not be in a position to challenge vaudeville.
The Kinetophone

Mr. Edison has devoted four years of his useful life to making it “possible for the poorest families in Squeedunk to see the same operas and plays that are produced in New York City.” He thinks his attempt is successful in the production of the kinetophone, which produces motion pictures that are very literally “speaking likenesses” of their originals. If he can in this way bring to the consciousness of the masses in the cities and rural districts, at a ridiculously low price, the best performances of opera, comedy, serious drama, and oratory, Mr. Edison will have made a genuine contribution to the advance of democracy.

The talking-picture-machine promises to be of great educational value. The promoters of university extension, for example, will not need the presence of their lecturers, who may be the most eminent at home and abroad, to give the best that they have to audiences in the district schoolhouses of the Nation. The machine will exercise its powerful influence in the revolution of conditions in the country living. Sons and daughters would not troop to the city, the city in all its aspects of instruction and entertainment might be brought to them by the adaptions of this invention. The realization of its promise seems almost too good to be true. We hope it is true.

“The Kinetophone,” New York Times 5 January 1913, 16.