Excerpts from “What Happened in the Beginning” by F. H. Richardson, Transactions of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers (1925)
“I now present a photograph of ‘Vitascope Hall,’ opened by Mssrs. [William T.] Rock and [Walter] Wainwright as a strictly motion picture theatre, in June 1896.
“Its location was the corner of Canal Street and Exchange Place, New Orléans, Louisiana. They showed among other things, the ‘May Irwin Kiss,’ ‘Waves of Dover,’ also a lot of short scenic stuff.
“Admission was ten cents. For ten cents additional patrons were permitted to peek into the ‘projection room’ and for another ten cents they were presented with one frame of old film.
“The projector used was the Armat Vitascope, then being produced by Thomas A. Edison, and, for business reasons, called the ‘Edison Vitascope.’ That last is on the authority of projectionist, [William] Reed, who had it direct from Mr. Rock, who himself purchased the projector.
“The theatre was a store front fitted with a screen, wooden chairs, an enclosure for the projector, a ticket booth and a name–Vitascope Hall. It seated about four hundred people. In the photograph you see the operators, Messrs. Rock amd Wainwright, standing in front, together with its projectionist, William Reed. Mr. Rock is at the extreme right, with Mr. Wainright next to him. Mr. Reed is at the extreme left. The names of the others are unknown.
“You will observe that ‘Li Hung Chang’ was on the bill the day the photograph was taken.
“Here gentlemen, is the printed program of that little theatre of far-off days. Doors open 10 to 3 and 6 to 10.”
According to William T. Rock, Vitascope Hall opened on July 18, 1896 and closed in October of that year. Rock became one of the co-founders of the Vitagraph Company and its president.
He is available for theatre talks and walks in 2014, historical societies, libraries, senior centers, etc.