27 Nov

Picture House Collective: exploring early cinema advertisements


Today we had our first meeting of the ‘Picture House Collective’ at Aqualibrium. After a brief presentation we started to explore lists of advertisements and articles related to the first 30 years of cinema in Campbeltown (1897 – 1927).

Aqualibrium holds a vast archive of articles from the Campbeltown Courier and Argyllshire Herald on microfilm. We were shown how to use the microfilm reader by Christine and Florence and started to select interesting advertisements from the lists provided. We then printed from the microfilm and scanned the resulting images into our digital cloud.

By looking at early advertisements and share ledgers, we started to discover the stories of some of the early performers and innovators of early cinema.

Campbeltown Courier advertised the first ‘Cinematograph’ in Campbeltown as a wonder of modern technology. The show was delivered by Lizars Opticians of Glasgow. Unfortunately the show was a huge failure. According to the Courier the operator’s lens was not “properly adjusted, while his screen was placed too low, making it impossible for those behind to see”. This was made worse by a rowdy crowd at the back shouting “in the most vulgar language!”.

Of interest were names that didn’t appear to “local”, including William D’arc as well as famous pioneers like Burnette and Calder.  The team also noticed that there was a strong tradition of theatrical performers connected with the arrival of early cinema in Campeltown. From Victorian conjurers, puppeteers to Rosicrucian hypnotists, the Courier archive steadily revealed the fascinating history of early cinema “shows”.

This sparked off an interest within the team to start to discover the stories of performers and pioneers, which we hope to share with you soon.  To start with, we found an image of early cinema entrepreneur Fredrick Rendell Burnette stuck next to a landslide at the Rest and Be Thankful, just two days before the Picture House opened.

Many of the advertisements provided an insight into the broader social history and historical events of the time. This included an advert related to a film showing the funeral of the Duke of Argyll, as well as a notice regarding the suspension of the children’s matinee due to an outbreak of scarlet fever. Finally, the team started to build a collaborative digital timeline which we hope to share with you soon.

Intrigued? Want to discover more? Get in touch with Robin, community archivist; [email protected]

Images (top to bottom):

  1. The Picture House Collective
  2. “See the Animated Photographs!” (19th Nov. 1897, © Campbeltown Courier)
  3. Fredrick Rendell Burnette and his car at the Rest and Be Thankful (24th May 1913, © Campbeltown Courier)

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