Today, we figure what was the first motion picture to be feature-length.
In “When We First Met”, we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of pop culture lore, like the first time that JJ said “Dy-no-MITE” or the first time that Fonzie made the jukebox at Arnold’s turn on and off by hitting it.
June will be When We First Met Month!
As you obviously know by now, when movies started, they were SHORT. But, again, if you never saw a movie before, six minutes of a movie would be freaking AWESOME, right? It’s like if you had never seen a music video before, and then you saw, like, I dunno, the Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” music video…
It’s less than five minutes long, but that would blow your mind, right?
So yeah, movies were very popular even though they were mostly around 10 minutes long each.
Well, in Australia in 1906, John and Nevin Tait ran a bunch of movie theaters (in New Zealand, as well). They obviously knew movies were big. Similarly, Millard Johnson and William Gibson ALSO ran movie theaters in the area, but they also had a lot of movie know-how, like how to use film, and stuff like that.
In any event, in the early 20th Century in Australia, one of the most popular pieces of entertainment was stage plays about Ned Kelly, a famous 19th Century Australian “bushranger” and outlaw.
So the Taits and Johnson and Gibson decides that if people were willing to watch these long stage plays about Kelly, then certainly they’d be up for watching a long FILM, too, right? So they teamed up together (with Johnson and Gibson handling the technical parts of the film) and spent about 1000 pounds (a decent bit of money at the time, of course) on a 70-minute movie.
It was silent, of course, and so when it was exhibited, it was typically more of a stage show, just with a film at the center. So you know, there would be an in-person narrator, there would be sound effects at the time, all sorts of stuff to make the show a big deal. It was a huge hit, taking in 25,000 pounds by the end of 1907. It was also exhibited in New Zealand and England and touted, at the time, as the longest movie ever made.
And yet, despite being such a major hit, by the 1940s, the original copies of the film were almost entirely lost. Luckily, about 17 minutes of the film have been restored over the years.
The end of the film involved Kelly having a shootout with the cops while he was trying to protect himself by wearing a suit of armor, so that’s why the header is such an unusual image.
Amusingly, no one involved in the film, at the time, thought it was all that historic, just, you know, a good gimmick. So obviously they didn’t hold on to the film or keep records of anything.
If anyone else has a suggestion for a notable pop culture first that you’d like to see me spotlight, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org