27 Nov

In the new Picture House – What did they see ?

Archive, Norman Mowatt

What were the first films shown when the Picture House opened on 26th May 1913?

What sort of things did people like to see?

More to the point, what was selected by the management for the shows?

I had a look at the first adverts and articles written about the Picture House to see what might be revealed.

The report in The Campbeltown Courier on the 31st May 1913 gives lots of details of the great and good who were invited, but doesn’t tell us what the guests or the first patrons were shown. It simply mentions that there was a selection of films of the very best class, not to be excelled by the leading picture theatres in the city. The variety of subjects dealt with in the pictures was said to show wise and careful selection.

Of course we have to remember that people didn’t go to see a two hour feature film like we do now. They saw a number of short films which the technology of the day could produce.

Towards the end of the newspaper article and in the Picture House advert in the same edition we get the first mention of a film. The great star picture for the following week would be ‘The Rajah’s Casket’. Sounds exotic, and indeed it was!

Opening in the Palace of the Rajah there is a gathering of exotic people bearing gifts including the casket of the title. Next we have some magical trickery and the casket is gone. The Rajah’s Fakir is summoned and is able to reveal a Djinn flying off on a dragon with the casket. Just like modern movies there ensues a pursuit. The Djinn cornered in a cave to meet his fate. A Queen and six dancing girls are freed from the casket and a spectacular happy ending with the enthronement of the Rajah and his new Queen brings the film to a close back in the palace.

Perhaps you would like to see The Rajah’s Casket for yourself !

Image credits
1.) ‘Picture House – The Rajah’s Casket’  (31st May 1913, © Campbeltown Courier)


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