Early Movie Ads, Collection

Warshaw Collection of Business Americana: Motion Pictures, 1896-1963

Early War Movie Poster

Motion pictures were first publicly exhibited in the United States at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois in 1893. While the films exhibited there were technically crude with little to no plot or story and far from the polished product of today, they immediately caught the public’s attention.

Within a short time the motion picture industry (creation, distribution, and marketing) had grown into a lucrative business. Those first motion pictures were often short serial films run in a series to keep customers coming back to follow the story’s plot line to its conclusion. Gradually, films became longer and a number of performers developed legions of fans guaranteeing a certain amount of box office business from name recognition of the star alone.

Initially, the film industry consisted of many small companies, but competition cleared the field and fewer, larger corporations cornered the market in both production and distribution. Independent theatre owners, who were at first almost wholly independent of the production companies, also became rare as the major theatre chains developed their own movie studios to ensure a steady stream of films to be shown at their theaters.
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