Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Quo Vadis" at the Astor

Below are ads and a notice of 1913 premiere of Quo Vadis at the Astor Theatre in New York carried in Moving Picture World. The ad includes notices from the New York City papers.

George Kleine, who owned the American rights, was experimenting with distributing the film more along the lines of a theatrical road show than through the usual channels of either the regular exchanges or state's rights. After the Astor Theater, where it would continue to run into the summer, the film opened at the McVicker Theatre in Chicago, followed by Philadelphia, Baltimore and Brooklyn in turn (see ad on right). It then went into somewhat wider release during the summer months, when many theaters traditional closed for the season. Throughout, however, Kleine kept control of the film, booking it for the most part into legitimate theaters that specialized in staging prestigious traveling productions.

"Quo Vadis" at the Astor

George Kleine's Big Feature Production Attracting
Increasing Business at Leading New York Theater.

With the distinction of being the first big dramatic motion picture, or photoplay, to open for a run in a first-class New York theater, "Quo Vadis" was given its first public presentation by Mr. George Kleine at the Astor Theater, Broadway and 45th Street, on Monday, April 21. Two performances were given on that date, to large, fashionable and enthusiastic audiences. The picture was simply staged with an accompaniment of appropriate music provided by a Wurlitzer unit orchestra. There was no lecture to detract from the picture and the audience seemed to enjoy every scene of this truly wonderful picture. The entertainment lasted two and one-half hours; the picture being run in three parts, or acts, with brief intermissions between each act, the length of the picture being about 9,000 feet.

A review of this production, which is by the Cines Company of Rome, will not be attempted at this time, but will appear in a later issue. But it is timely to remark the beautiful photography and the realistic effects that place "Quo Vadis" in the highest rank of motion picture classics. Notable among the effects were the scenes depicting the burning of Rome. At this point the audience was unable to longer restrain itself and burst into loud and prolonged applause. There were thrills in almost every scene; some calling for enthusiastic applause and yet others which commanded profound reverence. Altogether it was a delighted people who rose reluctantly to leave the theater when the curtain fell on the last scene.

Since the opening, the business done at the box office of the Astor has been steadily increasing, which fact, considering the prices of admission ranged from 25 cents to $1.50, gives reason for the belief that "Quo Vadis" will have a long and successful run in New York.

Having thus successfully launched the New York presentation it is Mr. Kleine's intention to open at McVicker's Theater, Chicago, 111., on May 5, where an equally enthusiastic reception may be expected.
Source: “‘Quo Vadis’ at the Astor,” Moving Picture World 3 May 1913, 467.
Image sources: Moving Picture World 14 June 1913, 1159 (right); Moving Picture World 3 May 1913, 496-97.