‘Vitagraph: The Big V on Avenue M’


The Vitagraph Company was founded in New York in 1896 by two pioneers of early cinema, J. Stuart Blackton and Albert Smith. After years of shooting exteriors on rooftops in Manhattan, they opened an impressive “factory” in Brooklyn in 1906. A vigorous and adventurous company, “The Big V” became one of the major producers of the early silent era, helped inaugurate the star system, and groomed such players as Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy (not yet a team). The centennial commemoration series comprises four sections: early short films, a John Bunny program, later comedies, and a recently restored print of The Life of Moses (1909). The five-reel Moses would have been the longest movie made in the U.S. to that date, but it was sent out to theaters in weekly installments because it was thought the public wasn’t prepared to sit through a movie lasting over an hour. In 1925, Warner Bros. bought Vitagraph, but while hardly any remnants of early filmmaking in New York have survived, the Brooklyn studio still stands.

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