The Historical Spectator.

Big Interests Plan Television Theatres

With the exception of the flying machine, no inven­tion was ever so breathlessly antici­pated as tele­vision. Every­one knew it was coming, and every­one knew it would change the world. But how? This article, pub­lished in 1930, suggests that tele­vision will be made to pay its way by becoming another attrac­tion in theaters. Clearly the author is simply making it up as he goes along; he has no inside informa­tion (as an exer­cise, count how many uses of the passive voice you can find, as in “it is predicted,” “it was asserted,” “it is recog­nized,” and so on). As a history of the behind-the-scenes prepara­tions that led to the television industry, this article is worth­less. But it is fas­cinating as an example of the hyster­ical antici­pation that built up around the idea of tele­vision in the late 1920s and early 1930s.


Public Must Pay for New Air Features

Big Business, watching its scientists in the research labora­tories, fore­sees an early solution of puzzling tele­vision problems. With the solution, it is predicted, will come the tele­vision theatre.

The tremendous strug­gle for the Fox film and theatre interests, it was asserted, was moti­vated by the impending sensa­tional upheaval predicted for the intro­duction of tele­vision, and not by any desire of Wall Street to enter the motion picture produc­tion business.

Control Planned

Television, according to definite and extensive informa­tion, is not to be permit­ted to leap out of hand by the big interests as did radio.

Television will be made to pay its way, competing when perfected with the present legiti­mate stage and the talking pictures as leading enter­tainment purveyor to the masses.

This is no guessing contest solution but the definite scheme of big business groups, repre­senting great elec­trical concerns, financial institu­tions and powerful theatre chain operators.

Upheaval Due

From the production studios of Hollywood and New York to the tremendous theatre chain facili­ties operating under the trade-marks of Fox, Paramount-Publix, Warner Bros. and R-K-O, must be broad­cast the enter­tainment of the future, for unless the solution of handling and control­ling tele­vision is put into operation, Big Business faces a deprecia­tion in its great land, building and equip­ment holdings far greater than the financial burdens imposed by the transfer from silent to talkie methods and more sudden than the decline of the speaking stage, and almost incon­ceivable in its economic effects.

It is recognized that television cannot be withheld for long, and if tel­vision were to be unleashed as was radio, thrown on the air for he who possesses a rented, borrowed or owned radio set to receive, the theatre industry must inevitably suffer.

If it were made available to all broad­casters, hundreds of theatres would be forced into darkness, trans­forming to worthless paper the securi­ties of the the­atrical industry and making radio-television the undisputed, preeminent enter­tainment medium.

Methods Perfected

An English method of broad­casting tele­vision has been a prac­tical fact for some time. American methods, designed in the research labora­tories of the big interests, have been developed along different prin­ciples to avoid the necessity of paying royalties to foreign inventors, and also, it is claimed, made as complicated as possible in order to keep its operation under the control of the major leaguers.

The A. T. & T. method is now completed to the point of practical demon­stra­tion, and the General Electric is said to be perfected to the point of getting it into the tube of the receiving equipment. But matters have been com­plicated by a German inventor who, it is revealed, has reduced the American methods to the point of such utter simplicity that construc­tion of tele­vision reception equipment is as easy as the making of the old crystal sets used to be.

Great Changes

The keenest minds of the country are now concen­trated on this television problem. The magnitude of the changes to be wrought by it are almost beyond the power of present human conception.

What it will mean to the profes­sional performer is something that can only be conjec­tured. It may mean the centralizing of enter­tainment production to such a point that unemploy­ment will be even greater than it is now. On the other hand it may mean such an impetus to produc­tion and such a widening of demand that it will be necessary to keep a continuous flow of new enter­tain­ment on tap day and night, providing increased employment and wider opportunities.

Whatever the exact nature of the develop­ment, however, it is true beyond all argument that the changes brought about on the enter­tainment map during the past fifteen years will be made to appear insig­nifi­cant in the face of the sweeping changes now on the threshold of the industry.

From Inside Facts of Stage and Screen, Saturday, April 19, 1930.