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1926 Chronokey Chronomedia index
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  Cultural highlights | Predictions made this year  
January 2  In its announcement of productions for release from September 1926, Fox plans 15 major productions, nine adapted from stage plays, two from novels. The number of westerns is cut by 50 per cent between 1924 and 1928. Fox also announces signing German director F W Murnau to make four films over four years for annuall salaries of $125,000, $150,000, $170,000 and $200,000, plus $125,000 each for any other film produced. He joins John Ford, Frank Borzage and Raoul Walsh.  
January 7  John Logie Baird gives the first demonstration of his television system to a reporter from the London Evening Standard.  
January 10  Premiere of Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis in Berlin.  
January 26  First public demonstration by Baird of his television system is given to 40 members of the Royal Institution in London, including a reporter from The Times (report 28 January), followed by a series of displays for other members of the press. This date is frequently incorrectly given as January 27, an error that may have arisen originally from Baird himself, or his publicist Sydney A Moseley. Baird gives January 27 in a talk on two New York radio stations in 1931.
January  John Logie Baird forms Television Ltd. During the year the company moves to new premises at Motograph House, Upper St Martin's Lane, London.  
March 3  Report of the Crawford Committee is published by UK parliament, recommending the establishment of the British Broadcasting Corporation as a public service radio organisation. > July 14
March  Radio LL is established with a 1 kW transmitter in the rue de Javel, Paris by Lucien Lévy. > 1935
April  A newly formed Joint Trade Committee negotiates with US renters, with Colonel Lowry representing the Hays Office. They consider a quota of one British film distributed in the US for every 25 American films distributed in the UK, as well as the loan of stars and Americans providing technical development assistance and training in script-writing. > 1935
April 16  BBC broadcast of a fictitious report by Father Ronald Knox of a riot of the unemployed in London ‘alarmed people all over the country, although it included such unlikely details as the roasting alive of a well-known philanthropist in Trafalgar Square’. Pre-dates Orson Welles' War of the Worlds (1938) by 12 years
May 24  Warner Bros makes its first Vitaphone short: The Song of the Volga Boatmen. Because sound discs cannot be edited, performances are recorded in single takes of up to 10 minutes with three cameras for long, medium and close-up shots.  
May  Warner Bros moves its Vitaphone production base ot the Manhattan Opera House (built by Oscar Hammerstein) on West 34th Street and 7th Avenue to get away from the noise of the Brooklyn elevated railway.[0025]  
May  Empire Marketing Board, cradle of the documentary film movement, is founded in London.  
June 6  The Gaumont Company advertises in The Times (p19): 'Marriages.—A film of the happy event is a living record for all time. For terms apply'  
June 17  Will Hays' speech to introduce Vitaphone in theatres is filmed and recorded.  
July 14  Crawford Committee recommendations are accepted and a British Broadcasting Corporation will be set up.  
July 14  BBC forms a committee chaired by the Poet Laureate, Robert Bridges, to advise on pronunciation. Other members are George Bernard Shaw, Sir Johnstone Forbes-Robertson, Professor Daniel Jones, phoneticist A Lloyd James (honorary secretary) and Logan Pearsall Smith (representing the Society for Pure English, of which Bridges was also a founder). > 1929
Robert Bridges quotation;
Broadcast English Broadcast English pamphlet text
July 16  Underwater colour photographs taken near the Florida Keys, US, are published in National Geographic magazine.  
August 2  First Vitaphone sound-on-disc film programme is presented by Warner Bros at the Warner Theatre, New York. The sound is recorded in a 16-inch disc, playing from the centre outwards and rotating at 33 rpm. It is intended that the films will supplant the live entertainment provided in some theatres between films. The demonstration film features Mary Astor and John Barrymore.  
August 6  Premiere at the Warner Theatre, New York of Don Juan, starring John Barrymore and directed by Alan Crosland is presented by Warner Bros, using the Vitaphone sound system for only synchronous music and sound effects (cost: $110,000). Recording of the music track, made by British-born George Groves (1901-1975) with the 107-member New York Philharmonic Orchestra at the Manhattan Opera House in New York, pioneered a six-microphone technique to improve the sound balance. It runs for nine months and, according to Warner PR, is seen by 649,683 people in 32 weeks. A programme of eight Vitaphone musical short films forms the first half of the programme, featuring such performers as Efrem Zimbalist, Roy Smeck and His Hawaiian Serenaders, Mischa Elman, Marion Talley, Giovanni Martinella and the Metropolitan Opera Company chorus. > 1927
August 9  Post Office issues licence 2TV to Baird for experimental transmissions, the first wireless transmission licence for television; later 2TW (Harrow) is also issued.  
August 23  Death of film star Rudolph Valentino, aged 31, in the Polyclinic in New York City provokes mass fan hysteria.  
August  Fox Film Company buys 100 acres of land in West Los Angeles to create Fox Hills Studio. About this time the company establishes a technology research and development department. Fox's Deluxe Laboratories remain in the headquarters building on 10th Avenue and 45th Street, New York. > April 1927
August  Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK, Japanese Broadcasting Corporation) is created to be Japan’s national broadcasting organisation.  
September 9  National Broadcasting Company (NBC) is incorporated in the USA as an offshoot of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). > November 15
September 27-30  An International Motion Picture Congress is organised by the League of Nations' Committee on Intellectual Co-operation in Paris. A book circulated by American William Seabury argues that the answer to the problems of the European film industries lies in access to the US market, rather than in restrictive moves against US imports, which only results in the production of cheap American imitations. Mostly the American industry does not concur. [0038], [0039] > 1927
October 4  Programme of sound-on-film shorts, made in UK by De Forest Phonofilm Company of Great Britain, is shown to a paying audience at Empire Cinema, Plumstead, London SE. Included is a film of Sidney L Bernstein, later head of Granada Group, explaining the system.  
October 7  Warner Bros' second Vitaphone release, The Better 'Ole, starring Syd Chaplin but with only musical accompaniment, is premiered in New York. It grosses $1.2m worldwide.
To support it, Warner pays Al Jolson $25,000 to make a short, A Plantation Act (shot September 7), in which he sings three songs—Red Red Robin, April Showers and Rock-a-Bye Your Baby— and says 'You ain't heard nothin' yet, folks! You ain't heard nothin'!' and included three curtain calls in the film. [0025]
 
October 27  Warner Bros screens a three reel documentary about Vitaphone, The Voice from the Screen, fpr the New York Electrical Society. [0025] [0025]
•  Cuban government produces a documentary using the Phonofilm system.  
November 15  National Broadcasting Company (NBC) is inaugurated in US as a radio network, comprising 24 stations, with a 4˝-hour programme hosted from the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York and involving feeds from Chicago (opera singer Mary Garden) and Independence, Kansas (Will Rogers). > 2003
November 20  Test transmissions begin from Radio Fécamp in Normandy, France on 200m. > 1929
November 23  Baird demonstrates his Noctovisor to members of the Royal Institution at his house, Swiss Cottage, Box Hill, Surrey; it involves transmission from outside the house of infra-red lights.  
November 27  Radio station KXL begins transmissions in Portland, Oregon.  
November  System of sound film production is demonstrated by Russian inventor P G Tager.  
late  Biocolor cinema circuit in England is sold to a City finance.  
late  E E Lyons' Biocolor cinema circuit (17 cinemas, the UK's fifth largest chain) is bought by a City finance consortium led by the Ostrer Brothers merchant bank.  
December 7  Victor Talking Machine Company is sold by Eldridge Johnson to two investment banks, Speyer & Company and J & W Seligman & Company. As principal shareholder, Johnson gets $28m; other shareholders—including Emile Berliner—get $12m.  
December 17  Radio station KYA starts up in San Francisco, California.  
December 23  In Portland, Oregon, a second radio station, KEX, goes on air (see also November 27).  
December 25  Kenjiro Takayanagi of Hamamatsu Technical High School displays  a Japanese character on a cathode ray tube, probably transmitted from a mechanical scanner. He has been working on television experiments since 1924. > 1928
December  Magnascope projection system, developed by Paramount, is used at the Rivoli Theatre for two sequences in Old Ironsides, using a lens that suddenly doubles the image width and height to 30 ft x 40ft.  
December  Radio station KUJ goes on air at Walla Walla, Washington.  
end  Canada has 135,000 households with radio receivers.  
•  Top five distributors in the UK (by number of films offered): Famous-Lasky (= Paramount), European (= Universal), Fox, Gaumont and First National (= Warner Bros). Of 749 films trade shown, only 34 (4.5 per cent) are British.  
•  Imperial Conference proposes development of an Empire film market to challenge the Hollywood hegemony. The Empire Film Institute is founded in London.  
•  Gaumont British Picture Corporation is reconstituted for vertical integration by amalgamating Gaumont, C M Woolf's distribution interests and Simon Rowson's Ideal Productions, with investment from the Ostrer Brothers (Isidore, Mark, David, Maurice and Harry). Shepherds Bush Studios are again enlarged.  
•  Cecil Hepworth's former studio at Walton-on-Thames is bought by Archibald Nettlefold (of the English Midlands metal products company) and renamed Nettlefold Studios. [0019] > 1961
•  Deutsche Lichtbild Syndikat (German Film Syndicate, DLS) is formed as an association for cinema exhibitors.  
•  Film Producers' Group is set up by the Federation of British Industry.  
•  Soviet government sets up a US film distribution organisation, Amkino, based in New York. [0036]  
•  US Congress votes special funds for the Department of Commerce to establish a Motion Picture Section. Its aim: to collect and disseminate information about foreign film markets. However, only the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association (MPPDA) is allowed access to the confidental diplomatic traffic.  
•  Hoyts Theatres circuit of 70 screens is formed in Melbourne—with cinemas in New South Wales and Western Australia—by the merger of Electric Theatres and Hoyts Pictures, the latter founded by Melbourne dentist Dr Arthur Russell.  
•  Electrola electric recording technique is developed.  
•  Investment in US film industry of $1,500m is made during the year, including new cinema building as well as production.  
•  US State Department asks all embasssies to report all instances of anti-American activity and feeling concerning films.  
•  United Artists releases the fourth two-strip Technicolor feature, The Black Pirate, starring Douglas Fairbanks—the last such film until 1929.  
•  British films account for less than five per cent of screen time in British cinemas.  
•  Light of Asia, German-Indian co-production made by Himansu Rai and Franz Osten (Franz Ostermayr, 1876-1956) about the life of Buddha, is the first Indian film to make an impact in other countries, including being the first distributed commercially in the UK.  
•  Lotte Reiniger’s Prince Ahmed may be the first feature-length animated film. Reiniger pioneered the use of cut-out silhouettes in animation.  
•  Italian fascist government takes over Istituto Luce and makes screening of its newsreels compulsory in Italian cinemas.  
•  First film produced in Costa Rica: El Retorno, directed by Romulo Bertoni.  
•  First feature-length film made in Hong Kong: Hero of the Sea and The Nameless Hero.  
•  First Indian film directed by a woman: Bulbule Paristan (The Nightingale from the Land of Fairies), made by Fatma Begum, wife of the Nawab of Sachien. > 1931 March 14
•  BBC experiments with stereo radio using two transmitters: 2LO in London and 5XX at Daventry.  
•  BBC Director of Education J C Stobart proposes a wireless university. > 1966
•  Long-wave radio telephony transmissions are demonstrated by the British Post Office from the new 350kW Rugby transmitter—the world’s most powerful transmitter—to Wroughton, Essex, using technology developed by the Marconi Company, and by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) from Rocky Point to Houlton, Maine.  
•  Facsimile radio transmission service is introduced commercially between Marconi House, London and New York. Among the first items sent (April 20) is a cheque.  
•  Microgroove long-playing discs are introduced in the US by the Edison Company. Discs have 450 grooves per inch and play at 80rpm. Ten-inch discs give 12 minutes’ playing time and cost $1.75; 12-inch discs give 20 minutes and cost $2.50. The walls between the grooves prove too fragile and the system does not succeed commercially.  
•  Music industry magazine Melody Maker is first published in the UK.  
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Page updated 30 January 2012
© David Fisher